Subject: APO 3.5m users committee minutes, 9/14/09

From: Suzanne Hawley

Submitted: Wed, 23 Sep 2009 12:04:41 -0700 (PDT)

Message number: 1145 (previous: 1144, next: 1146 up: Index)

****** in case you don't read this whole message, be aware
that the main action item is to send science highlights
to Suzanne Hawley, Mark Klaene and your Users committee
representative before Oct 5, 2009.  All email addresses
are above. *********************************************

          APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 9/14/09

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Ed Turner (for Michael Strauss), Scott 
Anderson, Mark Klaene, Guy Stringfellow (for John Bally),Remy 
Indebetouw, Bruce Gillespie

Absent:  Jon Fulbright, Al Harper, Jon Holtzman


User feedback, comments from institutional representatives:

   Princeton (Ed Turner) - Ed had not heard of any user comments.

   Colorado (Guy Stringfellow) - Guy had not heard of any user comments.

   Johns Hopkins (Jon Fulbright) - No report.

   Washington (Scott Anderson) - Scott said that a group of UW students 
are descending on APO later this week.

   Chicago (Al Harper) - No report.

   New Mexico State (Jon Holtzman) - No report.

   Virginia (Remy Indebetouw) - Remy mentioned the upcoming UVa student 
trip to APO in November.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

Regarding the more detailed report below, Mark said that it covers a two
month period, mostly in which the telescope was shut down for upgrades 
and annual engineering maintenance activities.  The primary mirror was 
washed in situ again, with good results.  July was mostly lost to bad 
weather, while August and September were mainly spent on the 
conversion to direct drives for altitude and azimuth.  We now have 
functioning direct drives on all three telescope motion axes, using 
largely identical hardware and software.  The installations went 
fairly quickly, but the debugging and tuning of the axes controls took 
more time.  At this point, the new drive systems are declared to be 
operational for science observations, but further tweaking and 
characterization will continue over the next few months.  Users should 
be watchful for tracking and guiding anomalies, especially when their 
targets cross the zenith or meridian, and during windy conditions--any 
problems noted should be reported to the APO night and day staff. 
Also, one of the operational benefits of the new drives is that the 
primary mirror covers can now be opened and closed while tracking, 
i.e., not only at the zenith position as with the old drives.  This 
will enable observers to obtain flat-field and wavelength calibrations 
while simultaneously tracking their science targets.

There is not much to report on the instruments.  Their annual 
maintenance procedures were accomplished, new bigger ion pumps were 
installed on DIS, Agile now has 2-inch filter holders and improved 
filter-change capability.  Agile still needs more scattered light 
abatement (ongoing); users should still plan to use sky flats with 
Agile.  Bill Ketzeback will transition to the 3.5-m day staff crew, 
and Nick McDonald is leaving later this year.  Joe Huehnerhoff has 
joined the staff to replace Bill as an Observing Specialist.


3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights, 7/7/09 
through 9/9/09

                           Mark Klaene

0) Overview

July saw a one-week shutdown for mirror cleaning and azimuth 
controller software work.  Some observing was scheduled with limited 
results due to weather, as is typical during the summer months. August 
and early September were devoted primarily to the direct-drive motor 
installation on azimuth and altitude axes.  To date, we have resumed 
science observations with all summer work completed.  However, we do 
anticipate further commissioning and characterization work to continue 
on the direct drives and new axis-controller software over the next 
several months.

1) Telescope

Both azimuth and altitude were converted to direct-drive motors 
(similar to the NA2 and TR2 rotators).  These four axes also now run 
with similar hardware and software controllers.  The mechanical 
installations went very well on azimuth but were a little more 
involved for altitude--minor machining was required to get the proper 
preload set for azimuth.  The mechanical installation was 85% complete 
after the first week and 100% complete after week two.  Electrical 
work went well.  The most significant issue is that despite 
manufacturer claims, the amplifiers can overheat in some conditions so 
additional cooling was required.  The remaining time consisted of 
getting the axis controller software running with the new motors. This 
was no small task and required a lot of tuning and re-configuring. 
This is not 100% complete and we will continue fine-tuning over the 
next several months.

We did not get all of our commissioning data completed due to weather, 
but current performance does appear quite good.

2) Instruments

SPIcam, DIS, GFP were evacuated for normal annual servicing.  DIS also 
received two new ion pumps. The new pumps have three times the pumping 
capacity as the old ones, which will provide some headroom for leaks 
and permeation and also helps when servicing, allowing a quicker pump- 
down time.

The echelle upper tank was evacuated. NIC-FPS and TripleSpec were kept 
cold; no servicing work was accomplished on these.

Agile rotational pin and filter wheel were worked on.  The 2" filter 
holder is now in place.  Work was done on the stray light seen in the 
dome flats, however additional work is required.

3) CIF projects

These are essentially complete for this year with the new axis 
controller, direct-drive motors and the Agile move to TR2.

4) Personnel

Bill Ketzeback will be moving over to day shift in the upcoming 
months, he will be replacing Nick MacDonald as the 3.5-m Telescope 
Engineer, who will be leaving APO at the end of the year.

Joe Huehenhoff has been hired to replace Bill on the night crew.  He 
will start training on the 10th of this momth.


Instrument Studies (Hawley):

Suzanne gave an update on the ongoing new and upgraded instrument 
studies.  Regarding the echelle upgrade (led by Eric Burgh) and new 
imaging camera (led by Cynthia Froning), Eric has been talking with 
Dale Sandford regarding costs estimates for a new detector and optics 
coatings.  For the imaging camera, Jon Holtzman, Suzanne, and Cynthia 
met with Chris Burrows to discuss a camera design for the widest 
possible FOV at the NA2 instrument port.  The e2v CCDs have smaller 
pixels than SPIcam, so an f/2 optical system is required to yield a 10- 
arcminute FOV.  This would necessitate a major change in the NA2 light 
baffling system.  Another option is to look at an f/5 design that uses 
a detector with larger pixels.  This trade study should be completed 
by the end of October.  One of the wide-field design issues is that we 
would need a new set of larger filters, and that a faster beam would 
compromise the performance of narrow-band filters--we need to know how 
important narrow-band filters are for users.  Guy Stringfellow said 
that the narrow-band filters are quite important.  The f/5 design 
might be made to work with our existing 3-inch filters.  Another 
option still being considered is the loan to APO of the QUOTA camera 
from WIYN, which would entail possible significant requirements on 
instrument control and user interface software.

We are also continuing to think about Jian Ge's FIRST instrument, for 
which a white paper was distributed to the Users Committee last year. 
FIRST is a NIR high-resolution spectrograph and interferometer that is 
predicted to enable radial-velocity measurements with a precision of 
~1 m/sec.  A new wavelength calibration possibility using a laser 
frequency comb developed at the University of Colorado is being considered
as part of this instrument.  If members of our user community are interested 
in single-target high-precision RV science programs in the near infrared 
(e.g., exo-planet candidate follow-up, stellar oscillations, binaries, 
etc.), they should express their interest to their Users Committee 

Suzanne added that since the direct-drives project is essentially 
completed, we will increase the priority of instrumentation projects 
in the next annual planning cycles.

Mark reported on the Goddard Fabry-Perot instrument.  The GSFC team 
has a new photon-counting detector for the GFP running in the lab back 
in Greenbelt, MD.  They also have the parts delivered for the IFU, and 
the plan is to install the new detector and IFU in the GFP sometime in 
the future.  We may also place the GFP under TUI control, depending on 
how wide the user interest is in the upgraded GFP.  In the March/April 
time frame, we posted a document that described the new performance 
expectations for the upgraded GFP.  Again, expressions of interest in
this instrument by users to their Users committee representatives
are desired.


ARCSAT, SDSS-III status (Klaene):

ARCSAT (the 20-inch, aka "Photometric Telescope) has not been operated 
recently.  There are problems with its control system, and we are 
getting in touch with DFM on diagnosing it.  Since there hasn't been 
much spare staff support time available during the shutdown season, we 
hope to be able to get the telescope operational in the near future.
[note added 9/23: the problem was found and the telescope is now
operating nominally]

For SDSS-III, the imager is ready for its fall observing season, which 
may be its last.  MARVELS is operational, and the BOSS spectrograph 
upgrades are installed and appear ready for commissioning tests. 
There are issues being worked on guiding, operations software, and 
plate marking and mapping.  Lots of SDSS-III people have been on site, 
and will continue to be so through the fall season as BOSS 
commissioning is conducted.


Science Highlights for Annual Report (Hawley):

Suzanne reminded the Users Committee members that it is the time to 
provide their institutional science highlights for inclusion in the 
Annual Report to the ARC Board of Governors.  Rene Walterbos has 
agreed to again gather and compile the science publications and theses 
lists.  Suzanne needs the science highlights--one page of graphics 
plus text per highlight--submitted to Mark Klaene and herself not 
later than 5 October.  Multiple highlights from each institution are 
encouraged.  Users should send these to their Users committee 
representatives as well as to Suzanne and Mark.



[open from previous months]:


[new actions from this meeting]:

===>ACTION:  Suzanne needs the 2009 3.5-m telescope science highlights-- 
one page of graphics and text per highlight--submitted to Mark Klaene 
and herself not later than 5 October.  Multiple highlights from each 
institution are encouraged, dating back to 1 October 2008.


Next meeting: The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 5 
October, 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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