The Berkeley Visible Image Tube (BVIT) Detector

The BVIT is a visible photon counting detector mounted on the 10m Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) that is designed to provide observers with very high time-resolution photometric imaging observations of astronomical objects. The instrument, which is capable of recording photon events with a precision of 25 nano-seconds, is (as of January 2013) a general-user facility instrument on SALT. A short description of BVIT can be found on the SALT instruments website, but seriously interested users should use this Berkeley web-site for the most updated details.

The BVIT instrument has a field of view of ~ 1.9 arc minutes on the sky and is capable of recording imaging data in B, V, R or H-alpha filter bands. Typically, sources of visible magnitude in the range V = 12.0 to 20.0 can be observed at high time-resolution. The BVIT does NOT provide high precision absolute photometry, but by observing nearby standard stars a flux intensity relative precision of ~ 5% can  typically be obtained.  Every detected photon is assigned a time of arrival and a (x,y) position on the detector, which allows an observer a high degree of post-acquisition data analysis flexibility.

Potential targets that are highly suited to BVIT visible observations are flare stars, pulsars, stellar transits & occultations, X-ray transients, AM CVn stars and magnetic cataclysmic variables (polars). Interested potential users of this instrument should contact either Dr. Barry Welsh ( at UC Berkeley  or Dr. David Buckley at SALT ( New users of BVIT will require some training by qualified SALT staff  in the use of the instrument.

Astronomers at UC Berkeley are currently funded by the NSF to carry out a collaborative program of scientific observations using the BVIT on SALT. Part of this collaboration involves an education outreach program between the Space Sciences Laboratory (Berkeley) and the South African Astronomical Observatory.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Berkeley Visible Image Tube (BVIT) Detector