Subject: APO 3.5m users committee minutes, June 2009

From: Suzanne Hawley

Submitted: Thu, 9 Jul 2009 17:57:30 -0700 (PDT)

Message number: 1136 (previous: 1135, next: 1137 up: Index)

Sorry for this belated distribution of the minutes from
the June APO users committee meeting.  The July meeting
will be held next Monday, July 13.  Please let your
users committee representatives know of any comments or
concerns to bring up at the meeting.

Suzanne Hawley
Director, ARC 3.5m Telescope
Apache Point Observatory


            APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 6/08/09

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

Absent:  Jon Fulbright


User feedback, comments from institutional representatives:

Princeton (Michael Strauss) - PU users are happy, with no concerns.

Colorado (John Bally) - no user comments.

Johns Hopkins (Jon Fulbright) - no report.

Washington (Scott Anderson) - nothing to report.

Chicago (Al Harper) - no user comments.

New Mexico State (Jon Holtzman) - no user comments, and no complaints 
about SPIcam "noise" (see below).

Virginia (Remy Indebetouw) - nothing to report.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

Regarding the more detailed report below, Mark highlighted the unusual 
May weather (some rain, clouds), and remarked that the recent USFS 
fire-safety restrictions had been lifted.  The annual monsoon rain 
season is approaching, and is predicted to be wetter than usual.  The 
3.5-meter telescope, and its instruments, have been relatively problem- 
free.  Due to a recent UPS power event, we had to power-cycle SPIcam, 
which resulted in its showing intermittent variable high-frequency 
noise.  The noise level is at ~15 counts rms, and has been seen and 
investigated historically with no success.  There has been a 
significant reduction in power issues with TripleSpec since it has 
been running with the new Leach controller.  Agile is now mounted on 
the TR2 M1 mirror cell position, and we will be continuing its 
installation and tuning over the next few days.  For CIF projects, we 
are on track and budget for the installation of the new direct-drive 
axis motors and controllers, which is part of the August shutdown. 
Also, the new altitude axis drive controller will see first light this 


3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights, 5/07/09 
through 6/3/09

                            Mark Klaene

0) Overview

This month we actually received some rain and clouds for about ten 
days, which has significantly reduced the immediate fire danger.  In 
the past weeks, we had one large fire twelve miles south of us and 
many small and large ones to the east of us.  This caused two nights 
of lost time due to smoke.  Preparations are continuing for a very 
busy summer on the mountain--many of the site staff are getting their 
annual vacations out of the way now.  The lower part of the dome and 
Arcade was repainted white.

1) Telescope

Telescope operations have been smooth, with some excellent seeing 
reported and generally good telescope pointing and tracking 
performance.  The only significant problem during this period was a 
tripped circuit breaker on one of our UPS units that provides some of 
the power to the telescope and instruments, which was caused by the 
power-up of the GFP.  The root cause is a collection of small loads 
that have been added over the past year that when combined with GFP 
pushed us over the edge.  A short-term solution will be implemented in 
June and a longer term solution incorporated in July.

2) Instruments

DIS, SPIcam, Echelle and NIC-FPS have been operational with no 
problems, although a return of high-frequency pattern noise has 
recently been seen in SPIcam images.  This has been investigated over 
the past decade with no resolution, and it seems to come and go 
without any apparent cause(s)--users are reminded to check for this at 
the start of their run.

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

Agile has been moved to the TR2 port with engineering tests scheduled 
for this week to establish its instrument block, check operation, and 
look at baffling and rotator performance.  Users should note that 
there is no offset guider at the TR2 port. 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 system is operational.

3) CIF projects

The direct-drive project is well on its way to completion.  Machining 
schedules are very tight, but we are still on target for installation 
during the summer shutdown, scheduled for Aug 10-Sep 6.  The new 
altitude controller will see its first on-sky time this week.


Imaging camera study:

Suzanne reminded everybody that we have been studying paths to upgrade 
the 3.5-m telescope's instrumentation.  Two of the ongoing studies are 
to upgrade (or replace) SPIcam for visible imaging, and possible 
enhancements to the echelle spectrograph.  On the visible-imager 
front, there is some recent progress.  Jon Holtzman and Cynthia 
Froning (lead), have narrowed the upgrade possibilities for visible 
imaging to three options.  The first option is to retain much of the 
SPIcam mechanicals and detector but to use new optics to reimage the 
focal plane to yield a wider field of view.  The second is to build an 
instrument that provides simultaneous multi-band images.  The third 
choice is to explore the possibility of adopting the QUOTA imager that 
was built for WIYN as a prototype for the ODI, which may now be 
available and suitable for use on our telescope--further investigation 
by Jon Holtzman will be necessary to determine if QUOTA is compatible 
with our telescope and software.  Future updates on this topic and the 
other instrument upgrade proposals will be forthcoming.


Shutdown plans and post-shutdown advisory:

There will be three engineering shutdown this season.  One is starting 
now to finish the move of Agile to the TR2 mirror cell port and to 
start commissioning of the new altitude drive controller.  There will 
be a 1-week shutdown starting 6 July to wash the primary mirror and do 
the annual primary mirror cell maintenance.  The longer shutdown will 
be between 10 August and 6 September for the installation of the 
direct-drive axis motors and controllers.  Suzanne and Mark emphasized 
that as always, and more so this year, there are risks that post- 
shutdown scheduled observing time may need to be preempted if the 
engineering work and/or subsequent on-sky re-commissioning is delayed 
because of technical problems or weather.  The next quarter's 
observing schedule will be published this week, and users who are 
scheduled in the days following the shutdowns should be aware of the 
higher risks of being preempted--we expect that if the telescope needs 
more engineering down time than scheduled, there will be adequate 
warning given to users.



[open from previous months]:


[new actions from this meeting]:



Next meeting: The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 13 
July, 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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