Subject: 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 8/04/08

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 16:05:01 -0600

Message number: 1110 (previous: 1109, next: 1111 up: Index)

         APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 8/04/08

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Bruce Gillespie, Mark Klaene, Remy  
Indebetouw, Jon Fulbright, John Bally, Michael Strauss, Jon Holtzman,  
Scott Anderson, John Wilson, Bill Ketzeback

Absent: Al Harper

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


User feedback, comments from institutional representatives:

Remy mentioned that the UVa observers were learning how to use  
TripleSpec, which has had a few hiccups.  Scott reported on a recent  
orientation visit to APO by UW grad students.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report - Klaene:

The report is given below.  Mark highlighted how the fire danger at  
the site has abated due to recent heavy rains.  The emergency backup  
generator was repaired, as have underground water leaks.  During a  
small engineering shutdown in July, the top end was inspected and  
everything looked good.  For the scientific instruments, the DIS was  
given a new instrument control computer, and vacuum problems with the  
echelle were addressed.  Agile will soon be moved to its new permanent  
port, with a dedicated rotator.  Some on-sky commissioning of  
TripleSpec occured, and some minor issues with it are being worked  
out.  For CIF projects, the new tertiary mirror support system was  
assembled at the site; installation will begin shortly.  The new axis  
controller for the altitude drive is on the docket for the major  
summer shutdown, which will start on 6 August and run through 22 August.

Michael Strauss asked about the nature of the work done to the  
telescope top end.  Mark said that it was routine service and  
inspection.  Bruce asked what observers might notice after the  
shutdown with the new tertiary supports.  Mark answered by saying that  
the observers should see improvement in telescope pointing stability  
and observing efficiency.  On auto-focus, Mark added that a fairly  
robust version is being tested on the sky, and Bill said that  
observers can elect to have auto-focus turned on during some  
observations.  Its development and testing have been ongoing for about  
a month, and more on-sky experience is needed before we put it into  
routine use.


3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights, 6/04/08  
through 7/30/08

                  Mark Klaene & Bruce Gillespie

0) Overview

Observing and operations were affected by summer precipitation for  
most of this period.  Rains fell unexpectedly during June and the  
monsoonal flow arrived on schedule (in early July), and was added to  
by the remnants of hurricane Dolly.  Total rainfall during this period  
was nearly 15 inches.  The Lincoln National Forest was reopened to the  
public on July 2nd.

On site-related matters, all underground water leaks have been  
repaired, as well as a fuel leak in the standby generator. Utility  
power outages were frequent due to rain and lightning, but the only  
storm-related damage has been to the fire alarm system.

SDSS-II observing concluded, and observing started for SDSS-III.   
Operational responsibility of 0.5-m telescope was transferred to the  
site because the telescope is not needed for SDSS-III.

On August 27th, the Discovery Channel TV "Mythbusters" program is  
scheduled to air an episode partially filmed at APO concerning the  
APOLLO lunar laser-ranging experiment at APO.

1) Telescope

We started the shutdown activities by servicing the secondary mirror  
systems, and moved FastCam to the MB3 mirror-cell port in preparation  
for Agile's move to the TR2 mirror-cell port.  Updated focus scripts  
and new TUI versions were released.  A spare computer for the 3.5-m  
hub was put into service.  Although on-sky time was limited by the  
weather, the telescope behaved well during the period.

2) Instruments

DIS, and SPIcam operated smoothly throughout the period. A new spare  
DIS instrument control computer was brought on-line.

The echelle had problems with its ion pump and LN2 fill system that  
caused inadvertent warm-ups and detector contamination. After several  
warming and pumping cycles, the chip contamination is now gone.  The  
ion pump problems are now resolved.

There has been no recent news from CU regarding the F-P etalon that  
was removed from NIC-FIPS and taken back to CU in May.  UVa will be  
making a newly designed fanout board for NIC-FPS to address noise  
issues--work could begin by late September.

TripleSpec commissioning continues with shared-risk use this quarter.   
The preliminary user documentation has been updated and reformatted.   
Problems with LN2 fills and cart still persist, with some fixes being  
worked.  Updates to the TUI interface have also been recently  
implemented.  Procurement of spares and acceptance documentation is  

Agile has seen a fair amount of use during this period.  For Agile's  
upgrade and migration to a permanent port, all parts have been  
assembled and bench testing is in progress for Agile's move to the TR2  
port, with a new rotator.  In this permanently mounted configuration,  
users will have a choice of 3-inch filters on a SPIcam filter wheel,  
or 2-inch filters on a manual slide. The camera will be installed with  
a fixed focal reducer.

The visiting instruments (GFP and APOLLO) were both operational.  The  
IR Camera for APOLLO aircraft-spotting has been moved to the telescope  
center boresight.

3) CIF projects

The tertiary support/actuator upgrade is in progress. The new parts  
are on the mountain, and they have been assembled and undergone bench  
testing that simulates various altitude angles.  Work has also begun  
on an upgraded motion controller for the altitude axis.

4) Summer Shutdown

On August 6th, we will start a 17-day shutdown for the tertiary mirror  
support upgrade, as well as for M1 washing and several additional  
maintenance tasks (e.g., annual instrument servicing, etc.).


Summer shutdown plans - Klaene

In addition to the report given above, Mark reminded the committee  
that when we come out of the summer shutdown on 22 August, weather may  
have prevented us from fully re-commissioning the telescope.  Although  
it looks less likely than in previous years, users should be prepared  
that their programs may need to be preempted until enough on-sky time  
is available to get the telescope ready for science use.


Narrow-band filters for Agile - Hawley:

Suzanne reported that only a couple of users said that they would use  
2x2-inch narrow-band filters with Agile.  Therefore, the 2-inch filter  
slide will be used for these programs, and the action item for this  
topic is closed.


TripleSpec observing during Q3, and plans for Q4 - Hawley:

Suzanne said that TripleSpec had been block-scheduled in Q3 on a  
shared-risk basis; there was one successful run in July, and the  
weather interfered with the others.  There is one block of observing  
scheduled in September.  The Q4 scheduling instructions are coming out  
soon, and there will be one block in October for TripleSpec, and  
thereafter it will be scheduled as a normal instrument.  John Wilson  
thought that this plan is OK; the shared-risk block observing has been  
a good learning experience for the users, and UVa and APO staff  
members.  The users guide has been updated based on the commissioning  
tests.  There are minor issues involving background subtraction for  
slit viewer images.  Also, it has been noted that due to the optical  
design, out-of-focus images in the slit viewer show some astigmatism.


SDSS-III update - Gillespie, Hawley:

SDSS-III observing began 15 July.  More than twenty institutions have  
joined the collaboration.  The Sloan Foundation has issued its first  
payment for operational support, and the newly formed Advisory Council  
(AC-III) approved survey spending through 1 September, and will meet  
again in August for approval to conduct the survey through the  
remainder of the year.  The Cooperative Agreement with the NSF is  
being negotiated, and the DoE has engaged the NSF and the SDSS-III in  
joint discussions on funding support.  The MARVELS extra-solar planet  
tracker instrument is in final assembly and commissioning at UFla, and  
is on track for shipment to APO in early September.


New business - Hawley:

Although not on the agenda, Suzanne mentioned that she wanted to  
notify the committee that it is time to start collecting Science  
Highlights from the past year to be used for our annual report to the  
ARC Board of Governors.  Please send one or two science highlight from  
the telescope users from your institutions to Suzanne (slh at and Bruce (gillespi at not later  
than 1 October.  We typically try to put the highlights (text,  
graphics, and images) on a single slide.



[open from previous months]:

ACTION:  Users committee members and users should contact Suzanne and  
Mark Klaene (slh at, mark at if  
they intend to use narrow-band filters for their future Agile science  
programs--CLOSED this meeting.

[new actions from this month]:

ACTION:  Committee members should send one or two science highlights  
from the telescope users from their institutions to Suzanne (slh at and Bruce (gillespi at not later  
than 1 October for use in the Annual Report to the ARC Board of  
Governors meeting in November.


Next meeting:

The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 15 September, 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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