Subject: APO 3.5m users committee minutes for Dec 2011

From: Suzanne Hawley

Submitted: Mon, 16 Jan 2012 12:58:37 -0800 (PST)

Message number: 1259 (previous: 1258, next: 1260 up: Index)

Apologies for the late transmission of these minutes from last month, 
which got delayed over the holidays.  Note that the next users committee 
meeting is on Monday, January 23.  Please contact your users committee 
representative if you have any items to be discussed.


  		APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 12/12/11

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Mark Klaene, Bill Ketzeback, Jon Holtzman, 
John Bally, Michael Strauss, Scott Anderson, Sean Moran, Russet McMillan, 
Joe Huenerhoff, and Bruce Gillespie

Absent:  Al Harper, Remy Indebetouw


User feedback and comments from institutional representatives:

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

o Colorado (John Bally) - John had nothing to report.

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 mentioned how impressed he is 
with TripleSpec, having seen it in action recently.

o Virginia (Remy Indebetouw) - No report.

o Chicago (Al Harper) - No report.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

Mark said that there was not much excitement in the past month (which is 
good), although the weather has turned colder, cloudier, and snowier. 
There was a glitch with the rotator that is a consequence of its new 
encoder system; a workaround exists.  The new DIS blue grating is expected 
to arrive at APO this week.  There are continuing problems with stickiness 
in the echelle guide camera shutter.  The new echelle guide camera should 
be delivered soon.  There has been no further work done on NIC-FPS, but 
recent users have reported that their data are OK.  All in all, it's been 
a quiet month.

Mark Klaene's detailed report for the reporting period follows:


  	      3.5-m Telescope and Instruments Highlights
  	                 11/4/11 through 12/6/11

0) Overview

A large UVa class trip was completed successfully this period.  There was 
slight medical emergency with one student.  This is about the 4th time we 
have had medical issues with a class trip.  Faculty should be mindful of 
the distance to, and capabilities of, local medical facilities when 
bringing students out.

Despite earlier forecasts predicting a La Nina weather pattern we have 
seen a series of winter storms already this year.  The last storm did 
leave approximately 8" of snow on the mountain.  Expect ice in shaded 
corners along the Sunspot Highway through March.  Traveling to/from APO 
especially at night during a storm is discouraged.

1) Telescope

The telescope has been operational with only minor problems reported. 
Colder temperatures (-15 deg C) have been seen with only minor issues. 
Roof snow removal continues when safe to do so.  Ice buildup on the 
lightning arrestors require warmer temperatures and sunshine in order to 
safe the telescope for opening.  There was an issue with rotator tracking 
that was traced to a motor commutation error.  This can happen if the 
rotator freewheels at a high rate of speed.  Unfortunately while it is a 
known issue, neither identifying the problem nor the solution is easy. 
However we have now implemented a new way to correct the problem which is 
much faster.

2) Instruments

DIS replacement Blue 400 grating was received by JHU and expected on the 
mountain any day now.  A problem with the DIS shutter and robotics in 
general were traced to a slightly lower than designed power supply level.

Agile, TSpec and SPIcam operated with no new issues.

Echelle is operational.  JHU personnel will be on site this week to 
evaluate the grating mounting in preparation for ordering the higher 
throughput grating.

NIC-FPS has been operating in shared-risk observing status.  The image 
corruption issues have not been reported to be affecting science data.

GFP software development is continuing, a light leak has been identified 
and a fix is in work.  Commissioning has slowed due to funding issues at 


Users traveling to APO:

Mark reported on a recent misadventure involving a visiting astronomer who 
used the GPS in his rental car for directions to APO from El Paso.  The 
GPS directed the astronomer onto forest service dirt roads that were in 
bad condition, causing the car to get stuck and forcing the visiting 
astronomer to walk a couple of miles to get help. The GPS routers are 
notoriously bad at giving directions to APO -- people should follow the 
written directions posted on the APO website.  Suzanne added that we owe 
our thanks to Kaike Pan at APO for helping with the rescue of the visiting 


Board meeting report:

Suzanne said that the ARC Board commended us for the past year's 
accomplishments, and approved our budget for 2012. The site and CIF 
budgets have been flat for a few years, largely due to the inability of 
giving raises to the staff because of salary freezes.  There are two ARC 
institutions that are likely to leave the consortium in the next few 
years, so the ARC Board is forming a Partnership Committee whose job will 
be to find new partners.  It will be possible for new partners to either 
buy into ARC or to lease time on the telescope.  Suzanne asked Users 
Committee members to help by being on the lookout for compatible new 
institutional partners.  Also, the Board endorsed the AS3 recommended 
program, and the AS3 Director is being recruited, followed by assembling a 
committee to define the program detail, arrange institutional 
collaborations, and initiate fund raising.  A more detailed report on the 
status of AS3 will is being distributed to the ARC communities.


Narrow-band imaging:

In response to concerns raised (recently, belatedly) by some Colorado 
astronomers, Suzanne wanted to inform the committee on her thoughts on the 
future of narrow-band imaging at the 3.5-m telescope.  It was noted that 
narrow-band imaging programs have only utilized a few percent of the 
observing time in recent years.  Nonetheless, it is felt that we have 
three, maybe four, paths to maintain the capability.  By the end of next 
year, we should be able to decide if SPIcam or the upgraded GFP will be 
our principal narrow-band imager -- only one of these instruments can 
survive the space crunch we have in the vicinity of the NA2 observing port 
when GRIZLI arrives.  A third path is to add a filter wheel to GRIZLI at 
some future time, but this would not happen any earlier than 2013, and is 
not part of the baseline instrument.  Lastly, it is possible to use 
narrow-band filters with DIS in imaging mode, but there are performance 
limitations that make this choice less than optimal.  Jon Holtzman added 
that there is a camera that uses narrow-band filters on the NMSU 1-meter 
telescope, with a 15 arcminute FOV.  Jon encourages ARC users to contact 
him (and to look at the NMSU 1-m page linked off the APO home page) for 
more information.


Q1 schedule, NIIS reminder:

Suzanne announced that the Q1 schedule is out.  There are potential 
target-of-opportunity programs, with programmed payback dark time included 
in the schedule.  Also note that the Wyoming wide-field infra-red imager, 
NIIS, is on the schedule in March.  Exploratory shared-risk observations 
with NIIS are possible during this run, assuming everything works.  User 
Committee members should share the NIIS white paper that Suzanne sent 
around last week with their users.



[open from previous meeting]:

===> ACTION: User committee members to assemble a listing of all 3.5-m 
telescope-related publications, theses, etc., submitted (and/or 
published?) by users at their institution from the past year, October 2010 
through September 2011, and send list to Suzanne by 12 December.

Status:  Closed (although still waiting for lists from NMSU, UVa, and 

[new actions from this meeting]:



Next meeting:  The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday 23 
January 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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