Subject: APO 3.5m users committee minutes from Sept 2013 meeting

From: Suzanne Hawley

Submitted: Thu, 17 Oct 2013 23:30:38 -0700 (PDT)

Message number: 1319 (previous: 1318, next: 1320 up: Index)

 		APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 9/09/13

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley (and for Scott Anderson), Rene Walterbos (for 
Jon Holtzman), Mark Klaene, John Bally, Al Harper, Mary Beth Kaiser, Jenny 
Greene (for Michael Strauss), Remy Indebetouw, Bill Ketzeback, Russet 
McMillan, Joe Huehnerhoff, and Bruce Gillespie.

Absent: none


User feedback and comments from institutional representatives:

o Washington (Suzanne Hawley) - Suzanne had nothing new to report.

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

o New Mexico State (Rene Walterbos) - Rene had nothing new to report.

o Princeton (Jenny Greene) - Jenny reported that when using Triplespec 
guide stars are lost in ABBA sequences when moving back to A.  Mark said 
that he will investigate this.

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

o Virginia (Remy Indebetouw) - Remy said that the UVa users are OK with 
the proposed reductions in observing time in 2014 vis a vis the new 
potential partners.

o Johns Hopkins (Mary Beth Kaiser) - Mary Beth had nothing new to report.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

Mark reported that since coming out of the summer shutdown, everything is 
working quite well.  Some considerable work was done on improving the 
pointing model, and the monsoon weather is starting to ease off.  The 
remounting of the field corrector lens in DIS seems to have fixed the 
excess dark current seen on the red side.  It was decided to not keep 
Agile in the ever-ready state in order to help extend its lifetime -- 
users should comment if there are objections.  SPIcam is exhibiting some 
new oddities in that there are non-normal ramps and bias being seen -- 
users need to check their recent and upcoming SPIcam data and report any 
unusual data patterns.  The quartz lamp for the echelle was replaced, but 
the low signal counts were not improved.

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


 	      3.5-m Telescope and Instruments Highlights
 	                8/8/13 through 9/4/13

0) Overview

We returned to full night science on schedule on August 9th.  A couple of 
partial nights were provided for science during the last scheduled nights 
of the shutdown. Since shutdown things have gone very well.

Summer monsoons are still sticking around but starting to wane.  Rainfall 
for the year is now at 11 inches still 4" shy of what is needed to 
officially release us from the drought designation.

1) Telescope

Telescope has been working very well since shutdown. Improvements are 
being made to the pointing models and controller software. Current 
residuals are now around 4". We recorded one night of 0.48" seeing with 
the Echelle.

2) Instruments

With the fix reported last month DIS red dark current remains low.  A 
minor light leak was located and repaired.

Agile is operational, however at the request of the PI (Anjum Mukadam), 
the observatory policy is now to keep the instrument powered off when not 
scheduled. The instrument will be powered on and checked out 1 to 2 days 
before scheduled observing.  Observers who think this will adversely 
impact their ability to use Agile should let us know.

TripleSpec had no problems this period and was not serviced during the 

SPIcam is seeing short duration fluctuations in apparent dark current. 
This is happening infrequently but no explanation currently exists as to 
the cause.  It is being investigated.

Echelle is operational.  A report of low counts in the quartz cals could 
be related to the long-occurring issue of filter wheel alignment, however 
this could not be confirmed.  The bulb was also changed but made little 
improvement.  Investigation continues.

NIC-FPS is operating in shared-risk observing mode due to occasional image 
corruption issue.  NFS less than 9 is operational.


Update on new partners:

Suzanne said that there are 10 MOUs in play for new partner agreements, 
including six for a Northeastern Astronomy Participation Group (NAPG). Of 
the 10, 4 are signed and the other 6 are in final discussion.  The 
allocation shortfall in 2014 due to Princeton leaving ARC will be covered 
with these new partners.  Princeton has agreed to spread its remaining 
observing nights through Q4  2014, and Chicago likely into 2015; the 
near-term scheduling of the telescope should be solved.


Science slides needed for ARC Board meeting by 7 October:

As is our annual practice, Suzanne and Mark need science slides for the 
annual report to the ARC Board of Governors.  Instead of the usual 3 or 4 
slides, we want only 1 or 2 slides in Powerpoint from each institution 
that highlights 3.5-meter science from the past year.  The due date is 7 


Quarter 4 telescope schedule:

Suzanne said that the draft observing schedule for quarter 4 is ready, and 
will be issued with the allocation for one of the proposed new partners 
held in reserve as 10 half nights of DD time.  There are also several 
classes and on-site training runs for new users in the Q4 schedule, which 
should be out soon.


DIS slitviewer:

Mark reminded us that the existing DIS slitviewer is late-90s technology 
that is currently unsupported by the vendor.  It also has a restricted 
field-of-view.  Earlier, we looked into an upgrade to a newer camera and 
better optics, but we are now planning to just replace the camera while 
improving the optics in the future.  Bill said that we are close to 
choosing a new camera (from Apogee) that is similar to the echelle 
slitviewer camera.


Update on APO imager:

Mark reported on the in-house effort to replace SPIcam.  Joe said that the 
analyses and design are going well.  Bill said that we are planning for a 
preliminary design review at the end of October -- if any users are 
interested in participating in the review of the new camera design, please 
contact Mark, Bill, or Joe. We want to make sure to send the documentation 
on the camera to the new partners.


Update on ARCSAT:

Suzanne pointed out that most of the new potential partners are interested 
in ARCSAT as a resource for their undergraduate programs.  We started an 
upgrade project with ARCSAT last year by adding wide-field and 
fast-readout cameras to the telescope.  We need to construct a GUI to make 
the system more user-friendly and attractive.  Joe is in charge of the 
ARCSAT upgrades. He mentioned that DFM has upgraded its control software, 
which will work with an off-the-shelf user interface.  Our longer-term 
plan is to design an in-house TUI-like control system.  We are also 
designing upgrades for the dome to make it safer for remote operations, 
but the intent is not to make the telescope robotic since the main driver 
for the upgrades is student training.  Suzanne said that we plan to 
release the telescope for shared-risk observing in January to existing and 
new ARC partners.  If all goes well, we will start charging $500/week for 
ARCSAT observing time in Q2 2014.  Suzanne is the ARCSAT Director, Bill is 
in charge of its overall engineering, and Joe is leading the upgrade 



[open from previous meeting]:

===> ACTION: Send new partner suggestions to Suzanne, Rene and Bruce.

 	Status:  Closed for now, but new suggestions are still welcome.

===> ACTION:  Find users to assist with instrument documentation.

 	Status:  Closed.  Michael Strauss has sent comments.  Mary Beth 
has comments and will forward them.

===> ACTION:  Explore new instruments discussion with users.

 	Status:  Closed for now, likely reopen discussion next year.

[new from this meeting]:

===> ACTION:  By 7 October, each institution to send 1 or 2 powerpoint 
slides to Suzanne and Mark highlighting 3.5-m science from the past year.


Next meeting:  The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday 21 
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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