Subject: APO 3.5m users committee minutes, 11/9/09

From: Suzanne Hawley

Submitted: Wed, 18 Nov 2009 16:46:23 -0800 (PST)

Message number: 1154 (previous: 1153, next: 1155 up: Index)

       APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 11/9/09

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

Absent:  Michael Strauss


User feedback, comments from institutional representatives:

Chicago (Al Harper) - Al said he had nothing new to report.

New Mexico State (Jon Holtzman) - Jon said thanks to the APO staff for supporting a recent site trip by students.

Washington (Scott Anderson) - Scott asked about the status of 2-d extractions 
for data reductions for TripleSpec data.  Jon Holtzman said that there is a 
description of an IDL tool in the user documentation, but upon discussion,
it was decided this is about the 1-d reductions.  John Bally said that 
there is an IRAF 2-d package that has been used with APO data, and people 
should contact Adam Ginsberg at CU for more information.

Colorado (John Bally) - John said he had nothing new to report.

Princeton - There was e-mail from Michael that indicated that there 
was nothing to report from PU.

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

Virginia (Remy Indebetouw) - Remy said that he has questions about scheduling 
and handling targets of opportunity.  He will discuss this off-line with 
Suzanne and Russet McMillan first.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report - Klaene:

Mark called attention to the impending housing crunch at Sunspot, which 
has long served as a source for overflow housing for Apache Point. 
NSO/Sunspot will be seeing an influx of new staff and visitors associated 
with the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope project, and beginning next 
year there will be little, if any, spare housing at their facility that 
we can use.  As we occasionally use the Sunspot housing for our visiting 
student and other larger groups, we are investigating how much of a problem
this might be for us beginning in 2010.  Institutions that are planning 
student visits or other large groups (more than 2-3 people) next year 
should contact the observatory as far ahead of time as possible, and
on-site observing visits should be arranged as soon as the schedule is 
known.  It is also a good idea to let Suzanne and Russet know about 
on-site visits in the telescope scheduling requests.  Good communication
between users, institutional schedulers and the observatory will be essential
to make sure we can accomodate groups as much as possible.

Additionally, Mark pointed to the fact that the new direct drives and 
servos are now working very reliably, and we continue to fine-tune the 
parameters.  Not much on-sky engineering time has been available to 
optimize the performance, so users should provide feedback to the 
observatory if they experience drive anomalies.


3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights, 10/2/09 through 11/3/09

                          Mark Klaene

0) Overview

We saw our first snowfall of the season, and unfortunately for observing 
we have seen weather service predictions for a wetter-than- normal winter 
this year.  As in recent years, we will continue to aggressively remove 
snow from the roof as long as personnel safety requirements can be met. 
The Operations Building kitchen remodeling was completed.  Discussion with 
NSO/SP indicate that future visitor housing will be extremely limited at 
Sunspot in the coming years due to an influx of ATST personnel coming to 
NSO/SP.  Combined with planned SDSS-III commissioning of new instrumentation 
next year, this may create a severe housing crunch for visitors in 2010 
and early 2011.  While we should be able to handle the occasional 2-3 
visitors in our own housing, large on-site groups may be a problem. 
Please check with the observatory before planning any student trips (or 
for any large group) to APO.

1) Telescope

The first half of the month saw a number of issues with the new controller 
servo loop dropping out.  After a lot of effort, a software bug was 
discovered and corrected, and motion errors that were happening 3-5 times 
a night immediately stopped.  We continue to characterize the performance, 
and adjust tuning parameters and software, to optimize performance. 
Additionally, work continues to make the new drive hardware more robust.

2) Instruments

DIS, Echelle, SPIcam, Agile and TripleSpec ran with no problems.  We 
had the NMSU NAIC instrument on site for a few visiting runs.  GFP was 
used successfully for one run, with no further vacuum problems.

The DIS slitviewer camera is showing some occasional banding and we are 
starting discussions with the manufacturer regarding possible causes and 
fixes.  At this stage, it is not hindering slit-view guiding.

The new NICFPS fanout board is progressing slowly with the board at CU for 
final assembly and testing.  UVa testing of the design looked promising. 
There was no progress on the NIC-FPS etalon.

3) CIF projects

The CIF projects for 2010 have been identified.  The plan is to make 
significant progress on:  the calibration lamps (improved UV/blue flux 
intensity), high-altitude M1 positioning, installation of encoder tape 
on one motion axis, purchase and fabrication of direct-drive spares, 
and installation of a brake on altitude axis.


Instrument studies - Hawley:

Suzanne referred to three documents that were sent earlier to the Users 
Committee: a white paper by Eric Burgh on upgrading the echelle, 
another by Cynthia Froning et al. on building a new visible-light imager 
for APO, and the third being an agenda for a December preliminary design 
review for the FIRST instrument.

The echelle upgrade proposal suggests a new detector, AR coatings on the 
uncoated optics, a new grating, and an image slicer.  The estimated total 
capital costs for these upgrades are ~$200k, but with labor (in-kind or 
contracted) added, the grand total will of course be more.  The improvements 
would bring an improvement in resolution to about 50,000, and increase 
sensitivity possibly by a factor of 2.  It was pointed out that the 
recent ReSTAR study of mid-sized telescopes indicated that an instrument 
with these capabilities would be a unique facility in the U.S., and could 
find great appeal to both ARC and non-consortium users.  Suzanne said 
that the Burgh proposal is very specific and concrete, and the costs of 
supporting the upgrade could come at least partially from capital improvement 
funds.  One major question is who would lead the project.

Jon Holtzman, a co-author on the imager upgrade white paper, said that 
their white paper was more open-ended than the one for the echelle 
because there is a large parameter space to consider that needs to be 
driven by more specificity in the science requirements.  Nonetheless, 
five possible options are given:

   o a new f/2 camera, well-sampled and wide-field, but expensive optics

   o a new f/5 camera, well-sampled and medium-field, simpler optics

   o borrowing the QUOTA camera from WIYN; electronic tip-tilt may improve 
PSF 10-20%, no improvement in FOV, need new filters, complicated 
operations and maintenance

   o a simple camera permanently mounted on the TR1 port, but which would not 
provide much improvement in capability over SPIcam

   o a multi-band, cascade-dichroic camera concept, which would be 
somewhat unique on telescopes in our class but would be expensive and 
complicated; could be attractive for outside funding, however.

After some discussion of the options, there seemed to some favor given 
to any option that has re-imaging optics, allowing a pupil stop to be 
placed in the instrument to control stray light.  Being able to use the
extensive set of existing filters is also deemed important.  We need to 
revisit this topic, and user feedback is welcome.

===> ACTION:  Users committee members to carefully read the echelle and 
imager white papers, discuss them with potential users, and be prepared 
for further discussion at the December Users Committee meeting.


Possible FIRST instrument PDR - Hawley:

On a related topic, Suzanne said that a preliminary design review 
for Jian Ge's FIRST instrument, which has been under discussion for some 
time as a new instrument for the 3.5-m telescope, is being discussed.  FIRST 
would be a high-resolution NIR dispersed interferometer, possibly employing 
a laser comb that is under construction at CU.  It could be used for 
high-precision RV work such as extra-solar planet research.  John Bally 
said he would try to attend the PDR if it is scheduled. If any other 
committee members are interested in attending, contact Suzanne.  We will
discuss this further at the next Users Committee meeting:

===> ACTION:  Users committee members to get feedback from potential FIRST users for December Users Committee meeting.


Annual report and board meeting - Hawley:

The annual Board of Governors meeting is next Monday; Suzanne and Mark 
are going to present the 3.5-m and site reports for 2009.  The institutional
board members have copies of these reports.  The budget will be
essentially flat next year, and we expect to devote some CIF money
to instrumentation projects.  Suzanne noted that the Users Committee 
is poised to play a major role in steering the future instrumentation 
development work for the telescope.



[open from previous months]:

===> ACTION:  Russet McMillan will look at the TripleSpec user documentation for its adequacy in describing darks and sky calibrations for the long-slit mode.

STATUS:  Open, and added that we need to talk to Adam Ginsberg about 2-d extraction data reductions.

[new actions from this meeting]:

===> ACTION:  Users committee members to carefully read the echelle and imager upgrade proposals, discuss them with potential users, and be prepared for further discussion at the December Users Committee meeting.

===> ACTION:  Users committee members to get feedback from potential FIRST users for December Users Committee meeting.


Next meeting: The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 7 December, 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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