Subject: APO 3.5m users committee minutes, 5/9/11

From: Suzanne Hawley

Submitted: Sat, 14 May 2011 12:51:59 -0700 (PDT)

Message number: 1226 (previous: 1225, next: 1227 up: Index)

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

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Mark Klaene, Michael Strauss, Bill Ketzeback, 
Scott Anderson, Sean Moran, Jon Holtzman, Cynthia Froning (for John 
Bally), Russet McMillan, and Bruce Gillespie

Absent: Al Harper, Remy Indebetouw


User feedback and comments from institutional representatives:

o Washington (Scott Anderson) - Scott said that one of the UW users is 
interested in an exposure time calculator for the echelle.  This was 
discussed later in the agenda.

o Colorado (Cynthia Froning) - Cynthia mentioned a user question about a 
night log reporting a successful observing night when the primary 
instrument scheduled was unavailable.  This was discussed later in the 

o Johns Hopkins (Sean Moran) - Sean had nothing to report.

o New Mexico State (Jon Holtzman) - Jon had nothing to report.

o Princeton (Michael Strauss) - Michael had nothing to report.

o Virginia (Remy Indebetouw) - no report.

o Chicago (Al Harper) - no report.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report - Klaene:

Mark mentioned the highlights from the past few weeks. This period was 
charactized as windy, dusty, no rain, but with generally good observing 
conditions.  "Full" closure of the Lincoln Nat'l Forest is expected to be 
enacted later this week; access to and operations at APO will be 
relatively unaffected, unless an actual fire situation near the 
observatory or roads leading to it develops.  The telescope has behaved 
well, but there is a problem with the Shack-Hartmann instrument for which 
there is a remediation plan to replace its camera -- this is an 
engineering instrument, so the problem is transparent to the science users 
of the telescope.  The DIS blue vacuum ion pump failed and was replaced 
with a spare.  After the ion pump replacement, the cryotiger recovery has 
so far not been great, which is typical and is being watched.  The Agile 
rotator problem was traced to its brake, and was fixed by adjustment.  It 
was also discovered that the clamps that hold TripleSpec on the rotator 
don't work perfectly when the instrument is upside down; a clamp 
adjustment and redesign is underway.  The echelle camera dewar was pumped. 
The NIC-FPS electronics problem is still with us, and we hope this will be 
fixed in late June when the instrument goes back to CU.  The GFP upgrade 
project resumes in early June.

Mark's detailed report for the last month follows:


        3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights
                       4/1/11 through 5/5/11

0) Overview

Dry and windy spring weather continues.  The USFS enacted stage 2 
restrictions, prohibiting all burning and campfires.  We expect full 
forest closure later this week. This should only affect folks wanting to 
walk in the forest.  We had a number of severe wind events with speeds 
running near 60+ mph.  The good news is the intensity and frequency of 
these usually drops in May.  A few partial nights were lost due to wind 
and/or dust.  No major fires have occurred near the observatory.  A couple 
of fires more than 40 miles away did send smoke over us, most of which 
dissipated by the end of twilight.  Fire prevention work around the 
observatory continues as we expect hot and dry weather to continue and the 
possibility dry lightning in June.

1) Telescope

The telescope continues to operate routinely with minimal problems during 
this period. Some initial summer preventive maintenance work has been 
performed.  Fritz is working on a new method to map the fiducials on the 
az/alt axis to improve blind pointing.

The Shack-Hartmann camera controller failed and a new camera and 
controller has been purchased.  We will be replacing the Apogee camera 
with a new SBIG camera.

2) Instruments

DIS performed well this period until an unplanned Blue camera warm up. 
The warm up was due to a failed ION pump which was quickly replaced. 
Unfortunately restarting the cryotiger delayed getting the camera back on 
line.  The instrument has been available with the Red camera only since 
the Blue camera went down.  There was some confusion the first night on 
getting the Red camera only to read out but that was corrected for 
subsequent nights. The Blue camera now appears to be working again.

During engineering we removed the slit-viewer assembly to investigate new 
mounting options and replacing the camera and optics.

SPICam operated with no new issues.

Agile spontaneous aborts appear to be behind us.  The mechanical 
installation of a brake on the rotator is substantially complete.  A 
recent rotator failure has occurred despite our belief that this issue was 
fixed.  Investigation as to the cause is continuing.

A Triplespec problem has surfaced where the instrument comes off the 
kinematic mounts slightly when rotated upside down.  No effect on science 
has been reported and the instrument safety is not at risk.  A temporary 
solution to adjust the clamps is in work, and new clamps are being 

The Echelle's vacuum was serviced during engineering.  Chip temperature 
has returned to normal. The interorder light is good but slightly degraded 
from before pump down.  A problem with ecam running during guiding has 
been worked on but still is showing up occasionally and work continues on 

The NIC-FPS problem of spontaneous reset of the Leach controller when 
rotated upside down still exists.  Users are advised to start their 
observations at specific recommended rotation angles, depending on sky 
position, to avoid tracking upside down.  See last month's minutes and/or 
the instrument manual on the APO website for more information.  There is 
also a software alert in place that should trigger if an image is bad. 
We plan to send the instrument back to CU in late June so the problem can 
be addressed during the summer shutdown.

GFP upgrade work will resume in June.


Night logs - Hawley:

Recently, the DIS blue camera vacuum ion pumped failed without warning, 
and the instrument was taken out of service with only a few hours notice. 
The scheduled users were able to invoke a backup program that used SPIcam, 
and observations were made.  The night log reported that the night was 
used, even though the primary program using DIS was not successful.  A 
user later asked how we reconcile situations like this, i.e., how can the 
night be successful if the primary program failed.  Suzanne said that the 
telescope use and logging tools definitions for a usable night have always 
been such that if the telescope collected data, the night was considered 
useful (we do not use the word successful in the night logs), and no value 
judgement is applied to the science.  (Note that this also applies to the 
much more frequent case of less than perfect weather - if the weather was 
good enough to be open and observing, we log the time as used.)  At one 
time in the past, we tried a policy where the PIs of the observing 
programs were requested to write a short summary assessment of the night's 
observing, which would be appended to the night logs.  This was 
discontinued because the PIs were largely reluctant to provide any 
feedback.  Without this input from the PIs, we have no tools for 
evaluating the quality of the results of observing time when the telescope 
is used on the sky.

We want to take this opportunity to remind users that they should always 
come to the telescope with a backup program using a different instrument 
for the rare case that their primary instrument is unavailable (and in 
general with backup programs for poor weather).

In cases of instrument failure, it has been our policy to try to 
recompense the affected programs with upcoming OPEN/DD time, which is 
usually possible and was done in this case.  There followed a discussion 
by several committee members that indicated that people feel that our 
system seems to work well and is quite flexible.


Exposure time calculators - Hawley:

A user has proposed that an exposure calculator be provided for the 
echelle.  We should consider doing this for all instruments.  There is an 
exposure graph/table for the echelle on our website, but it is not easily 
found and there are some questions about it.  But the committee felt that 
exposure calculators would be useful tools for observers, and their 
development would be a good project for interested members of the 
observing community with assistance from APO staff to provide the 
necessary instrument parameters.  This led to an action item for the 

        ===> ACTION:  User committee members to try to find users who 
would be interested in helping develop exposure calculators.


Q3 schedule - Klaene, Hawley:

The summer shutdown will run from 5 - 27 July, with the main work being 
the realuminization of the primary mirror at Kitt Peak.  There will be a 
brief engineering period in August for cleanup items.  NIC-FIPS will 
hopefully be back at APO in late July and available after the shutdown. 
There is a UW class trip to APO 11-15 August.  Housing is tight at APO 
this summer -- a number of people are at the site for the SDSS-III APOGEE 
commissioning and other 2.5-m summer work, and NSO housing at Sunspot has 
dried up because of the many people being brought there to work on the 
ATST project.  If any institutions are planning trips to the site this 
summer, please contact us as soon as possible to facilitate accomodation 


Final word on logging scripts - Ketzeback:

Bill said that there are now scripts on Newton that match guider images 
with the nearest science images, for all instruments.  See the link 
below, and this will also be announced to apo35-general.  We invite 
feedback from users.


ReSTAR proposal update - Holtzman:

We received a letter from NOAO that our ReSTAR collaborative proposal 
was accepted.  We are invited to be part of an NOAO proposal to NSF
for ReSTAR funding that would allow NOAO to lease 3.5m telescope time
for use by the community.  The details and extent of the arrangement are
still under discussion.


AS3 call for proposals - Gillespie, Hawley:

Although the AS3 call for proposals is mainly targeted to future programs 
for the 2.5-m Sloan telescope, some of these proposals may call for 
coordinated observing support using the 3.5-m telescope.  In these cases, 
proposers must contact Suzanne to discuss the feasibility and institutional 
arrangements for acquiring access to the 3.5-m prior to submitting their 
AS3 proposals.



[open from previous meeting]:

===> ACTION:  User committee members to poll their users to determine who 
would be interested in using ARCSAT, willing to help with an upgrade 
proposal and its implementation, and for what scientific objectives?

 	STATUS:  Closed.  Princeton and JHU showed no interest, while UW, 
NMSU, and UC have all indicated some interest.  Suzanne will take these 
inputs and proceed.

===> ACTION:  Bill Ketzeback to look into and suggest fix to permissions 
and/or IP issues in TUI related to slit-viewer and guide camera images.

 	STATUS:  Closed.  Bill Ketzeback said this has been fixed.

===> ACTION:  Users committee members to advise NIC-FPS users about 
instrument rotation angle issue and need for vigilance.

 	STATUS:  Closed.

===> ACTION:  Remy Indebetouw to get the logging script specifications for 

 	STATUS:  Closed.  Logging scripts have been implemented.

[new actions from this meeting]:

===> ACTION:  User committee members to try to find users who would be 
interested in helping develop exposure calculators.


Next meeting:  The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday 6 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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