Subject: 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 7/16/07

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Fri, 20 Jul 2007 14:23:56 -0600

Message number: 1043 (previous: 1042, next: 1044 up: Index)

                       APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 7/16/07

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Bruce Gillespie, Mark Klaene, Scott  
Anderson, Remy Indebetouw, Al Harper, Michael Strauss, Russet  
McMillan, Jon Fulbright, John Bally, Grace Wolf-Chase, Bill Ketzeback

Absent: Jon Holtzman

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


User feedback, comments from institutional representatives:

Princeton (Strauss) - Michael had nothing to report, except his hopes  
for improved observing weather.  Mark said that the short-term  
weather forecast is predicting better weather.

CU (Bally) - John had nothing to report from the users.  There are  
issues regarding the upcoming NIC-FPS upgrades, namely a potential  
staffing shortfall at Boulder.  A meeting at CU will be held this  
afternoon to identify people and funding.  The IR test dewar for  
testing the Fabry-Perot has arrived and is being tested.  There is a  
risk that certain key staff will not be available to work on the  
instrument during the shutdown, and finishing the instrument  
documentation is also a concern.  Mark Klaene mentioned that with the  
16-channel read upgrade to the detector, we may experience file-size  
and site-to-user bandwidth problems.  We may need to look into data  
compression and/or next-day raw data retrieval.  A reminder to users:  
NIC-FPS will be taken off line beginning 26 July for the upgrade work.

NMSU (Holtzman) - No report available.

Washington (Anderson) - Scott had nothing to report.  Suzanne added  
that she is currently teaching a grad course on observing, and has  
found that the site user instrumentation documentation is still an  
issue.  The DIS documentation is great, but the other instruments'  
documentation needs improvement.  She also mentioned that if other  
institutions have observing courses using APO, they should let her  
know how those are going and if there are any issues that the  
observatory should address

JHU (Fulbright) - Jon said that the recent replacement of the echelle  
calibration lamp has worked well.  Suzanne asked if JHU and Chicago  
hold observing classes.  Al said that UC has an experimental  
astronomy course that largely deals with instrumentation, not  
observing, and he would suggest adding an observing course to the  
curriculum committee.  Jon said that JHU treats observer training on  
an individual basis.  Michael said that at Princeton most of the  
observers are post-docs who get APO-specific training individually at  
the site.

Virginia (Indebetouw) - Remy reported that the UVa users are pleased  
with their data.  They have had installation problems with TUI  
related to firewalls and libraries [note: institutional system  
administrators should contact Russell Owen at UW-- advice on TUI installations].  Remy also  
said that his users have tried using the new SPIcam/TUI software with  
mixed results.  Russet said that there is still testing to be done  
that has been thwarted by recent cloudy weather.

Chicago (Harper) - Al had nothing to add that wasn't already  
discussed above.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report - Klaene:

The report is given below; Mark walked through the highlights.  The  
so-called "monsoon" storms have arrived.  Jim Davenport is now  
soloing as a summer fill-in Observing Specialist before he heads off  
to grad school next month. Bill Ketzeback is back at work, and Jack  
Dembicky is on family-related leave.

The only new thing to report on the telescope is a recent glitch with  
tertiary mirror rotation, which was discovered last week.  The  
rotation from port to port seems to have been become jerky and  
intermittent.  A loose wire on the rotation drive brake system was  
discovered and repaired this morning, and subsequent tests so far  
have shown no motion failures.  Further testing will be done, and  
Russell and Mark will devise a software
change to limit the acceleration/speed of the tertiary rotation to  
protect the mechanicals if this anomaly repeats.  Mark reminded us  
that the summer shutdown is still scheduled from 20 August through 16  
September.  There is only limited on-sky testing time available at  
the end of the shutdown, and we are counting on favorable weather in  
the last few days of the shutdown to re-commission the telescope.

Mark reported that Agile is about to have another commissioning run  
at the telescope.  Also, the DIS high-red replacement grating is  
being tested at JHU prior to delivery to APO and installation.  The  
Lakeshore controller that controls the temperature of the DIS red  
chip has failed and is under repair. In the meantime users should  
make sure to take concurrent flats and biases with their DIS-red  
data, as these may be slightly different than before the Lakeshore  

For the CIF projects, the instrument rotator parts are in, and Fritz  
Stauffer and Nick McDonald are visiting engineers at KPNO and  
Flagstaff to discuss various axis controller and motor questions.   
For the rebuild of the tertiary mirror mount, we still need to hear  
from users on requirements for tip-tilt so we can plan the scope of  
the tertiary mount redesign.  Suzanne said we need to hear from users  
what, if any, are the compelling scientific requirements for tip-tilt  
are, and what the derived engineering requirements are.  Jon Bally  
said that the CU users want the hooks left in for tip-tilt in the  
tertiary.  Remy asked who do we talk to about tip-tilt.

ACTION:  Suzanne said that the Users Committee members need to  
identify which of their users would be willing to contribute effort  
and participate in a telecon to scope tip-tilt for the 3.5-m, and to  
communicate their names to her and Bruce Gillespie before 30 July.


3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights, 6/10/07  
through 7/5/07

                                Mark Klaene

0) Overview

Monsoonal weather started a little early this year with moderate rain  
and evening clouds limiting observations for much of the past 2  
weeks. The June engineering time was clouded out; however, some in- 
dome testing of the SPIcam TUI interface and further training of Jim  
Davenport made the time useful. Bill Ketzeback has returned from his  
family medical leave.

1) Telescope

No significant problems this period.  Tracking tuning was not  
accomplished, but tracking has generally been acceptable, not  
requiring that we pre-empt observing.

The summer shutdown is still on track for August 20 to September 16.   
The driver is the primary mirror re-aluminization.  We have a limited  
number of days on the sky for recovery; hopefully the weather will  
cooperate and allow us to return to science on schedule.

2) Instruments

Agile is preparing for more commissioning runs at the telescope this  
month. The fiber interface was working when it left Princeton  
Instruments.  The focal reducer is planned to be completed and ready  
for commissioning during July.

The replacement DIS Red high-resolution grating has been received at  
JHU for testing.  Delivery to the observatory and installation in DIS  
is expected later this month.

The Lakeshore temperature controller failed on both DIS cameras-- 
repair is in work.  This leaves us with no DIS red heater and only  
the ion pump controllers as a way to gauge temp and vacuum.

We replaced the ThAr lamp on the Echelle.

Incorporation of SPIcam into TUI has been released to users.  Some  
scripts are still under development.

NA2 guider camera had an intermittent network connection failure  
develop. The cause was traced to a broken network cable.  A more  
flexible cable has been installed.

NIC-FPS is scheduled to be taken off line and sent to CU on the 26th  
of July. Work will include implementing 16-channel readout capability  
and F-P Etalon installation and testing.

3) Engineering and CIF projects


Rotator upgrades: two machining work orders have been let and the PO  
for the motor and accessories has been signed.  Expect delivery late  

Axis controllers: bench setup has been built and is undergoing  
testing of the new axis controllers.


Tertiary mounting:  discussions are ongoing as to the need for tip/ 
tilt  to be incorporated.  Input from the scientific community is  
required to determine if fast guiding at the tertiary is desired.  If  
interested please let Larry Carey know (

Direct drives: research into direct drives for the azimuth and  
altitude drives continues.

4) Miscellaneous

Jim Davenport completed his training as a summer fill-in Observing  
Specialist.  Jim will be soloing during the rest of July and August.


SPIcam/TUI interface - Klaene:

The on-sky testing of the new SPIcam/TUI interface has been hampered  
by bad weather during engineering time.  The readout speed is an  
issue, which is being worked on by Craig Loomis at PU.  Russet said  
that users have been trying it, and bugs are being chased down and  
tested, but SPIcam is not a frequently scheduled instrument.  There  
are operational workarounds that speed things up, but they need  
further real-life tests.  Suzanne said we greatly appreciate users  
who are willing to help us test and debug SPIcam/TUI on a shared-risk  
basis, but users can still use the old system if they prefer.  We  
will continue to work on making the new software the default, but it  
will depend on how much on-sky testing time we can get over the  
coming weeks.


Management changes at APO - Hawley:

Suzanne pointed to the recent announcement that Bruce Gillespie has  
been reassigned to the position of ARC Program Administrator, in  
which he will act as the AS2 Program Manager and also provide part- 
time support to her and Rich Kron for the 3.5-m telescope and SDSS- 
II, respectively.  He will continue his role with 3.5-m Users  
Committee and its constituent institutions through a transitional  
period during the coming year.  Mark Klaene has been promoted to the  
position of APO Site Operations Manager, and will be increasingly  
involved with 3.5-m planning and the user community.


Actions from earlier meetings - group

[open from previous months]:


[new actions from this month]:

ACTION:  Suzanne said that the Users Committee members need to  
identify which of their users would be willing to contribute effort  
and participate in a telecon to scope tip-tilt for the 3.5-m, and to  
communicate their names to her and Bruce Gillespie before 30 July.


[Suzanne asked me to post this addendum to the minutes]:

To members of the 3.5m users community:

As documented in recent 3.5m users committee minutes, the NSF has  
charged a committee (called ReSTAR) with carrying out a survey of the  
astronomical community to assess the interest in supporting  
scientific programs on small and moderate sized (less than 6m)  
telescopes.  This comes from the Senior Review report, and the 3rd  
Telescope Systems Workshop report, both of which highlighted the need  
for telescopes of this size.  Obviously the 3.5m falls into this  
class.  If you have not already done so, please take a moment to go  
to the ReSTAR web page and provide your input.  An NSF program that  
provides funding for telescopes of this size could be an attractive  
option for improving our instrumentation and supporting our  
operations in the future.  The committee web page is located at:

and the form to submit input is linked off that page.  The committee  
will meet next on July 30-31 to consider the input; responses  
received before then will be most likely to be effective.


Next meeting:

The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 17 September, at  
8:30 AM Pacific Time (There will be no phonecon in August).  The  
agenda and other materials will be sent to the committee members  
during the preceding week.

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