Exactly five years after groundbreaking, the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) project released its first colour images, marking the achievement of 'first light' and the successful debut of full operation for SALTICAM, a $600 000 digital camera designed and built for SALT at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO). SALT is the largest optical telescope in the Southern hemisphere, and equal to the largest in the world. Gathering more than 25 times as much light as any existing African telescope, SALT can detect objects as faint as a candle flame on the moon. The sample images released for the first time were taken during the camera's first trial period of operation, which also achieved SALT's first significant scientific results.
Eventually the sharpness of SALT’s images will be improved by the full implementation of its active optics control, but although this is not yet operational, the best frames produced by SALT and SALTICAM show star images as small as 1 arcsecond (1/3600 degree), despite being taken when the seeing was 0.9-1.0 arcseconds.
The SALT First Light Press Release (pdf 209k)
2 Poems have been written about SALT and First Light.