Subject: Minutes for September 28 APO 3.5m User's Committee meeting

From: strauss@astro.Princeton.EDU

Submitted: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 11:12:01 -0400 (EDT)

Message number: 310 (previous: 309, next: 311 up: Index)

	Apache Point Observatory 3.5m User's Committee Meeting
****************September 28, 1998**********************

Attending: Michael Strauss, Rene Walterbos, Bruce Gillespie, Ed
Turner, Jeff Brown, Chris Stubbs, Alan Uomoto, Ed Kibblewhite, Chris Stubbs. 

**********Current developments on the mountain************
Gillespie: Tia Hoyes is leaving, as she has a job offer in her
hometown (Phoenix), thus much reducing her commute.  We're confident
we will be able to find someone else from the list of resumes left
over from the last round of hires.  We're covered, in any case,
through the month of October using existing site staff. 

Recent developments at the telescope: The cloud camera broke, and is
now repaired.  The dewpoint sensor recently also was repaired.  The
rotator problems, which were so apparent about 3 weeks ago, have been
under control, and there have not been any complaints recently.  Since
the shutdown, the telescope has been behaving very nicely, and we've
been getting some great sub-arcsecond nights!  Spicam is also back on
line, and seems to be working well using the new Cryotiger
refrigeration system.

Also, the polishing of the secondary has started (apo35-general #308).
It is time to start thinking about the support structure for the
secondary; it might arrive as early as next summer!  Ed Kibblewhite is
eager to be involved in the planning for all of this.  Gillespie will
convene a group to think about this.

NMSU have gotten their vBNS proposal approved and funded.  So we might
have this on the air as early as next Spring.  This should really
improve the speed of remote observing.

******************Status of the Echelle:*************************
  Turner: 4 of us: (Turner, Gillespie, Stubbs, Ed Jenkins) visited the
Chicago Echelle lab on September 17.   We are in the process of
writing a formal report, which will be distributed to the User's
Community.   The Echelle is operational, with the engineering chip and
lab electronics.  With that configuration, it seemed to be working
fairly well.  The biggest problem was that the lines were slightly broader
(2.6 vs. 2.0 pixel) than specifications, and are somewhat asymmetric,
but the PSF is stable and uniform, and this therefore can be taken out
in reduction.  
  There is not yet a measurement of the throughput of the instrument,
which is best done with observations of standard stars, on the

  They are working now to replace chip, electronics, and computers
with "flight", science grade versions, and start sending things to
APO.  They hope to install as early as the November bright run (in
which case, some scheduled science programs may be bumped). 

  They are planning only roughly ten days of testing at Chicago with the final
chip, etc., before sending it off to APO.  The visiting committee was
basically happy with this, given peoples' schedule, *if* the Chicago
people meet the following requirements: 
    1.  The final chip and hardware are installed. 
    2.  There be usable software for users to operate the instrument
	(although it is understood that the interface for remote
	observing will take somewhat longer). 
    3.  There be documentation, or a plan for generating
	documentation, covering both the engineering and user
	interface for the instrument. 
    4.  The performance of the instrument (readnoise, resolution,
	etc.) is re-characterized after installation of final
	hardware, and before shipping.  
    5.  Some sort of guiding capability is in place. (There does exist
	a guide camera now, but it is not yet hooked up to a computer
	to use the data it produces.)
    6.  There is a commissioning plan in place, which includes
	training for APO staff. 
Don York and Doug Duncan have agreed to be joint instrument scientists
for the echelle, and both are expected to be active users of the

  Don York's suggested definition of a "successful" instrument: It
should perform at least as well as the 4-m echelle at KPNO (in terms
of S/N ratio on a given object in a given amount of time); they are
expecting to do substantially better than this. 

  There are a number of suggested future enhancements for the
instrument, including: 
    -An Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector. The slit is 1.6"x1.6"; atmospheric
		dispersion will be a real problem. 
    -A field stop for better imaging. 

  Ask Bruce Gillespie if you want copies of viewgraphs from the
meeting, before the review committee issues them in their report. 

   If the agressive schedule above is held to, we may be able to make
the echelle available to the community on a shared-risk basis in the
1st quarter of 1999.

   If people are interested in taking part in the commissioning
activities, please contact Bruce Gillespie.

   An issue: tertiary rotation required in the setting from Echelle to
other instruments.  Stubbs is working on various aspects of this
problem. A crude manual system is available now, but we plan to soon
implement an electrical control for this motion. 

******************Proposals on the Web*************************
Web version of the schedule includes the proposals themselves; it is
not clear whether we want this public to the world.  A simple solution
is simply to inform users that they need not put, e.g., exact
coordinates in the proposal, or to simply inform the user that any
sections that they deem confidential should be clearly marked as such.
Another possibility: have the TAC edit the proposal to give Ed Turner
just that information he needs to schedule (i.e., priority, and time
needed), not the scientific contact.  There may be a need for the
users to modify the proposals after getting the time allocation from
their local TAC.

******Possible upgrades to the DIS slit-viewing camera************
 Jon Holtzman would like a faster turn-around on the readout of this
camera.  One possibility: Use a Spectrosource camera with much faster
readout, which Jon has.  Unfortunately, the one available has a much
smaller field of view.  But if we can find a camera with a larger
field, we might be able to speed up readout time
substantially. Gillespie is looking for such a camera from our
existing stock. 

Upcoming User's Community meeting in Seattle:  People have been
signing up to come from all the ARC institutions; we expect of order
20 people there.  There may be some discussion with the Board of
Governors at the meeting about various issues.  We are eager to have
some representation from the echelle folks at the meeting. 

***************Musing on future instrumentation:***************
 There is wide-spread concern about the rate of development of new
instruments for APO, and the level of support that exists for the
present suite of instruments.  We had a energetic discussion of this,
prompted in part by Chris Stubbs' draft suggestion that we downplay the
model of facility instruments, and instead emphasize a model in which
instrument builders are rewarded directly by, in effect, an expanded
Director's Discretionary time budget.  This will surely be one of the
main topics of discussion at the Seattle meeting.  In the meantime,
the User's Committee has drafted an expression of their concerns, and
a desire that funding for new instrumentation be put at the top of the
agenda for future developments at the observatory, in a letter to Ed
Turner; this will be forwarded to the Board of Governors. 

  Last month's minutes are approved.

  Next meeting, Monday, November 9, 12:30 PM

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