Subject: APO 3.5-m users committee minutes, May 11, 2009

From: Suzanne Hawley

Submitted: Fri, 15 May 2009 12:16:25 -0700 (PDT)

Message number: 1132 (previous: 1131, next: 1133 up: Index)

            APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 5/11/09

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Scott Anderson, Jon Fulbright, Mark 
Klaene, Bill Ketzeback, Bruce Gillespie, Michael Strauss, Remy 
Indebetouw, and Guy Stringfellow (for John Bally)

Absent: Al Harper, John Bally, Jon Holtzman


User feedback, comments from institutional representatives:

Colorado (Guy Stringfellow) - Guy mentioned that he had heard of user 
complaints that TripleSpec beam switching on bright targets isn't fast 
enough.  Bill Ketzeback said that this might be due to the instrument 
rotator not being accurately zeroed, and/or problems with TripleSpec 
instrument balance.  We are planning to perform on-sky testing to try 
to characterize this during upcoming engineering time.

Princeton (Michael Strauss) - Michael said things were fine, but 
mentioned that PU users had also been impacted by recent incidences of 
problems with TripleSpec beam switching.

Johns Hopkins (Jon Fulbright) - Jon had nothing new to report.

Washington (Scott Anderson) - Scott had nothing new to report.

Chicago (Al Harper) - no report.

New Mexico State (Jon Holtzman) - no report.

Virginia (Remy Indebetouw) - Remy reported that there was "general 
happiness" among UVa users.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

Mark said that we've seen some wind, dust, clear skies, and high fire 
danger in the past month.  Dave Woods is retiring as the 3.5-m's 
electronics technician next year, and his replacement, Ed Leon, is 
starting this week.  The telescope and instruments have been generally 
running well.  The APOLLO laser is operational again.  The direct- 
drive replacement project is on track for the late-summer shutdown. 
Bruce mentioned that if any ARC institution is planning to bring large 
groups of students to the site this summer, there may be traffic 
congestion due to the large amount of engineering work planned for the 
3.5-m and SDSS telescopes between June and mid-September--it would be 
best if student groups came to APO outside of this time frame.


3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights, 4/11/09 
through 5/6/09

                             Mark Klaene

0) Overview

Weather continues to be good with moderating winds but atypical spring 
cirrus clouds.  The lower part of the exterior of the dome and arcade 
have been repainted.  Annual forest fire prevention activities are 
underway, e.g., a fire break around the site has been recut and four 
truckloads of forest detritus have been hauled off.

An Electronics Technician was hired and will start this Wednesday, who 
will be the replacement for Dave Woods when he retires early next 
year.  We have so far not received any promising applications for the 
posted Telescope Engineer position.

1) Telescope

Telescope operations have been smooth, with some excellent seeing 
reported and generally good telescope pointing and tracking 
performance.  No significant telescope problems arose this past month.

2) Instruments

DIS, SPIcam, and the Echelle are fully operational, and NIC-FPS has 
been operational with no problems.  The new NIC-FPS fan-out board 
needs to be populated, tested at UVa and CU, and then a plan for its 
installation will be formulated--CU commitments to HST/COS will delay 
the fan-out board installation until after the summer.

TripleSpec has been operating with a borrowed Leach power supply so we 
can monitor the array power dropouts.  The frequency of these dropouts 
has been significantly reduced.  Some temperature read-out problems 
are still occurring, however.

Agile is still available at NA2.  Its move to the TR2 port has been 
delayed due to scheduling conflicts but we expect that it will be
moved during the June engineering time.  There is a new TUI release for 
AGILE control.  There has also been more study and data collected 
regarding Agile bias shifts and overscan areas; the Agile documentation 
is being updated and should be consulted prior to using the instrument.

The APOLLO laser is currently offline due to a problem which may be 
remedied this weekend.  A precision gravimeter has been installed in 
the cone room beneath the telescope, and it is producing useful 
telescope positional information.  The aircraft transponder receiver 
array is also in operation. The APOLLO team is making plans for future 
work with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

3) CIF projects

The direct-drive project is well on its way.  Machining schedules are 
very tight, but we are still on schedule for a late-August or early- 
September installation.


On-site training:

Suzanne said that we have always encouraged student visits to the 
telescope, particularly as part of their orientation to the facilities 
and for training on how to use them.  It was recently asked whether 
the 3-night training requirement applies to postdocs who are new 
users.  The training policy 
stipulates that all new 3.5-m telescope users are required to spend 
3 nights at the telescope for orientation and training.  Students need 
to be accompanied by their faculty advisor or a designated experienced 
observer; new Ph.D.-level observers can receive their training/ 
orientation by themselves.  If an observer, one who hasn't had the on- 
site orientation, plans to run the telescope remotely, he or she will 
need to be assisted at all times by an astronomer who has been trained 
on-site.  This policy has been in place since the telescope was first 
opened, and is intended, in part, to promote the hands-on experience 
of observing for new telescope users.  Every few years, questions 
about this policy have arisen, and in this instance, the Users 
Committee members endorsed the continuation of the training policy.


Instrument updates:

Suzanne gave an update on the status of the new instrument 
initiatives.  Eric Burgh is planning to issue a report with 
recommendations for upgrading the echelle spectrograph sometime in 
June.  Cynthia Froning is also preparing a proposal for a new visible- 
imaging capability for the telescope; her report is expected in late 
June.  Jon Holtzman has been talking with WIYN about the possibility 
of a loan of the QUOTA imager--Suzanne will send the committee a link 
that describes QUOTA.  Also at various stages of discussion are three 
other possible new instrumentation projects: a wide-field NIR imager 
from Wyoming, a high-res, fiber-fed, NIR spectrograph from UFla, and 
upgrades to the Goddard Fabry-Perot instrument.


Summer shutdown:

Mark announced that we are having two shutdowns this year, one short 
(1-week) in July to wash M1 and service its mirror cell, and a longer 
one (4-week) in mid-August through mid-Sept to install the new direct- 
drive actuators on altitude and azimuth, with their new axis 
controllers.  Suzanne added that the latter shutdown is ambitious, and 
risks to the schedule are possible that could affect post-shutdown 
observing schedules.  If the installation of the new drives encounters 
unexpected difficulties, fall-back plans are in place.



[open from previous months]:


[new actions from this meeting]:



Next meeting: The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 8 
June, 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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