Subject: 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 2/25/08

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Wed, 5 Mar 2008 12:23:05 -0700

Message number: 1092 (previous: 1091, next: 1093 up: Index)

                APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 2/25/08

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Bruce Gillespie, Scott Anderson, John  
Bally, Remy Indebetouw, Al Harper, Jon Holtzman, Jon Fulbright, Ed  
Turner (for Michael Strauss)

Absent: Michael Strauss, Mark Klaene

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


User feedback, comments from institutional representatives:

Princeton (Turner) - Ed sat in on the telecon for Michael, and he had  
nothing new to report on user feedback or issues.

UVa (Indebetouw) - Remy had nothing new to report on user feedback or  

UW (Anderson) - Scott reported that a user at UW, Rich Plotkin, has  
noticed the NIC-FPS bright-target persistence issue.  It has not  
caused him problems, but he is generally working with fainter  
objects.  Plotkin has noticed that the persistence lasts for 10s of  
minutes for 5 second exposures for targets brighter than H = 11  

CU (Bally) - John had nothing new to report on user feedback or  
issues.  The new, better shielded, fan-out board for the NIC-FPS  
detector is being fabricated.  Its installation in the instrument, and  
the removal of the faulty F-P etalon for testing at CU, are expected  
in April.

JHU (Fulbright) - Jon had nothing new to report on user feedback or  

NMSU (Holtzman) - Jon had nothing new to report on user feedback or  

UChicago (Harper) - Al had nothing new to report on user feedback or  


Discussion of telescope/instruments report - Gillespie, Hawley:

The report is given below.  Bruce and Suzanne went over the high  
points of the report; there was little substantive discussion.


3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights, 1/07/08  
through 2/20/08

                           Mark Klaene & Bruce Gillespie

0) Overview

Operations continued largely uninterrupted.  Snowfalls to date have  
been light and have not caused any significant loss of observing time  
from snow and ice buildup on the roof. The recent lack of  
precipitation is continuing to worry local forest fire officials about  
the fire risk this spring.  The severe cold weather should be behind  
us; we saw no low-temperature related failures or problems this year.

1) Telescope

There were no issues with the telescope during this period.  We are  
successfully running the new axis controller on the instrument rotator  
during science observing.

2) Instruments

DIS operated smoothly throughout the period, with no reported  
problems.  SPIcam had a shutter problem traced to the shutter wheel  
coming loose from the motor shaft.  This particular shutter had been  
reliable for over 5 years, and the shutter wheel has since been  
reinstalled and secured in place.  We noticed a burning smell in the  
Echelle electronics rack--we couldn't pinpoint the exact source but it  
is suspected to have been coming from one of the unused electronics  
cards.  A test of all Echelle normal functions showed that everything  
is working as expected.  We will perform a more thorough search during  
the summer, but for now the odor has disappeared.   We are currently  
waiting for the new fanout board for NIC-FPS and then will schedule a  
date to warm the instrument, install the fanout board, and remove the  
etalon for testing back at CU.  We will try to do this work during  
unscheduled observing time, which will likely be during April due to  
TripleSpec's arrival in March.  The newly coated focal reducer for  
Agile was tested for throughput; preliminary data reduction and  
analysis are complete and the web documentation has been updated.  The  
visiting instruments (CorMASS, GFP, and APOLLO) were all operational.   
We plan to remove CorMASS from the observing level floor on March 3rd  
in preparation for TripleSpec, after which time CorMASS will not be  
available for regularly scheduled observing.

3) CIF projects

We are progressing on the implementation of Agile field rotation and  
its migration to the TR2 mirror cell port.  Design drawings are going  
to the shop, and parts have been ordered.  The Critical Design Review  
for the Tertiary support/actuator upgrade is scheduled for March 6 and  


ARC collegiality and sharing of data - Hawley:

For context, Suzanne reminded us that we developed a Target of  
Opportunity policy a few years back, largely to handle GRBs, and the  
policy contains language about data rights and sharing.  Recently,  
there were two sequential requests for Director's Discretionary time  
asking to take ToO observations of a SNe event.  The existing GRB  
policy was largely designed for fast-attack preemptions, and the  
slower response time needed for the SNe programs did not entirely fit  
the GRB  guidelines.  In addition, the two SNe observing groups  
consisted of several team members from non-ARC institutions, who were  
in competition with each other.  This resulted in resistance to  
sharing the DD observing time and data.  Suzanne wondered if there  
needs to be a more general guideline for ToOs regarding shared  
observing and data rights, in order to enhance both scientific  
efficiency and ARC collegiality.  Ed Turner, who was sitting in for  
Michael, said that when the ARC Board of Governors originally  
established DD time, it was envisaged as being administered entirely  
at the Director's discretion.  There were no guidelines established  
other than that the Director would report on DD usage at the annual  
Board meetings.  He agreed that ToOs are thorny problems to deal with,  
and it is probably impossible to share observing time with those  
requiring fast-attack (i.e., hours, not days) preemptions of scheduled  
programs.  Since a wide variety of actions can be required to  
accommodate any of a large diversity of possible DD requests, Ed felt  
that it would be better not to have general policies, but rather to  
give the Director broad latitude in what course of action to take.  Al  
Harper concurred that it would be best to leave it to the Director.   
As for the collegiality issue, Ed said that it is perfectly legal (in  
the ARC sense) that the partner institutions can do whatever they want  
with the data taken at APO, although our community culture has been  
largely generous about sharing data.  However, when outside interests  
are involved in data rights, issues will naturally arise. Al suggested  
when there are data-sharing issues involving outside collaborations,  
we should be tending towards collegiality whenever possible.  John  
Bally also said he supports this overall general approach.

Suzanne said she would consider these points, and invited the  
committee members and others to send her any further opinions on the  


TripleSpec update - Hawley:

TripleSpec has undergone several cool-down cycles in the lab at UVa,  
and except for some final focus tweaks, it appears close to being  
ready for shipment to APO.  Lab calibration data are looking good, and  
there are a few remaining issues to be worked, such as finishing the  
instrument control software and TUI interface, and instrumental heat  
advection.  Shipment to APO is targeted for the 2nd week in March, and  
commissioning on the telescope the following week during engineering  
time.  Additional engineering time in Q2 will be allocated for  
continued testing, and TripleSpec might be in a state where a small  
number of shared-risk science observations may be possible later in  
the spring.  There is no scheduled TripleSpec science time in Q2  
because of the natural uncertainties of how fast the commissioning  
will proceed, but interested users who have a couple of targets are  
invited to contact John Wilson (jcw6z at to see if these  
can be observed during the later phases of commissioning on a shared- 
risk, best-effort basis.  By early May, we hope to be able to decide  
if TripleSpec will be offered for scheduled science time in Q3.  There  
is some user information on TripleSpec already linked to on our user  
information webpages.  Remy will check to see if these are as up-to- 
date as possible.


Newly trained observers protocol - Hawley:

Regarding the training policy for new users, Suzanne mentioned that  
newly trained users are not automatically added to the list of trained  
observers after they have completed their three-night orientation at  
the observatory.  To be added to the list of authorized remote  
observers (i.e., trained), we ask that either the person's  
institutional scheduler or Users Committee representative send an e- 
mail to this effect to Suzanne, Mark, Bruce, and Gretchen so that  
their name and contact information can be added to the trained user  


NIC-FPS raw data curation policy - Hawley:

With typically short exposure times and multiple raw data frames  
resulting from Fowler sampling, NIC-FPS can produce prodigious amounts  
of raw data.  Our current NIC-FPS data processing system returns  
processed frames immediately to the user, but the raw-frame data are  
kept on disk at APO, from where the user can download them at a later  
time. Although we normally keep all data for the other instruments for  
approximately 9 months, we are going to establish a practice that  
purges raw NIC-FPS frames 90 days after the observations are taken.   
If NIC-FPS users are interested in having their raw data frames, we  
strongly suggest that they download these data not later than a few  
weeks after they are taken.  John Bally suggested implementing a  
system where the raw NIC-FPS frames are time-stamped so that they can  
be automatically deleted after exactly three months, and Suzanne  
thought this would be possible.  Remy said that this policy should be  
written into the NIC-FPS user documentation, and Suzanne agreed.


Telescope tracking while mirror covers closed - Gillespie/Hawley:

Some observers ask to do lamp calibrations with the primary mirror  
covers closed while continuing to track their targets, in order to get  
more calibration signal off the whitened surfaces on the mirror  
covers, and to save time by not having to reacquire the target.  By  
design, the telescope is significantly out of balance when the mirror  
covers are closed, and tracking the telescope in this condition puts  
strain on the drive electronics and mechanical components.  We are  
establishing the standard practice that telescope tracking will always  
be turned off when the primary mirror covers are in the closed position.



[open from previous months]:

ACTION:  John Bally will write a section with figures on Fowler  
sampling for inclusion in the NIC-FPS user documentation.

STATUS:  Closed, perhaps.  Cory has given Gabrelle new materials for  
the NIC-FPS user information pages.

ACTION:  User Committee members should find out if their NIC-FPS users  
are having problems with residual images caused by bright targets.

STATUS:  Closed.  Cory has taken data on the persistence problem,  
which will be written up as a guide in the NIC-FPS documentation.   
John Bally said that clearing the bright-target residual images may  
take hours and could be a scheduling issue.  We will need to keep  
reminding NIC-FPS users of this instrumental characteristic.

[new actions from this month]:



Next meeting:

The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 31 March, at 8:30  
AM Pacific Time. The agenda and other materials will be sent to the  
committee members during the preceding week.

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