Subject: Minutes, APO User's Committee meeting, 7/17/00

From: strauss@astro.Princeton.EDU

Submitted: Tue, 18 Jul 2000 08:43:49 -0400 (EDT)

Message number: 444 (previous: 443, next: 445 up: Index)

  Apache Point Observatory 3.5m User's Committee Meeting
		July 17, 2000

Attending: Bruce Gillespie, Jeff Brown, Lew Hobbs, Ed Turner,
Michael Strauss, Rene Walterbos

Missing: Alan Uomoto and Chris Stubbs. 

****************Status of the Shutdown**********************
Gillespie: Things are going well.  We're pretty much on schedule to
get the telescope back on the air at the end of July (current schedule
has first night of science operation on July 29).  The primary mirror
is out of the telescope.  It has been cleaned, and work has been done
on the mirror cell, which we hope will get rid of the astigmatism it
is thought to be causing.  We have removed all the plates that the
ventilation tubes contact, so now the ventilation tubes are no longer
in physical contact with the back of the mirror. Also, the "P" gasket
that seals the back of the mirror has been removed as part of this

 Various electrical and mechanical problems with the tertiary rotation
have been fixed.

  SPICAM has an electrical insulator added between the dewar and the
cryotiger, which should reduce some noise feedback.  However, the
cryotiger is not starting again; it apparently needs some purging of
contamination, and the cryotiger company want us to buy a purging kit
to do this.  It will be a rush to get this done before we're back on
the air.

  Inspections show that the cracks in the back of the primary have *not*
grown since October; this is very good news.  However, unfortunately,
there are some cracks that can't be seen now without removing aluminum
from the front of the mirror.  What we can see there is consistent
with the cracks not having grown...
  There is a controlled burn going on at APO and Sunspot.  Thus far,
there have been no "creep-aways" (i.e., fires getting out of control),
or serious smoke problems.  This will continue to the end of the
month, but the burning is nearly completed, without incident.  Things
are quite wet, because it has been raining quite a bit lately.

*********************APO and the decadal survey**********************
  The decadal survey, now available on the web, although not in
hardcopy, at:

has recommendations about a variety of things that would affect the
observatory.  Optical/Infrared astronomy is paid for by the NSF, state
government, and private funds, so it is not all answerable to the
decadal survey.  The survey has remarks about the relationship between
NOAO and private observatories.  In particular, they recommend that
NOAO develop a strategic plan for instrumentation for *all* of US
optical/IR astronomy; they want a sort of coordinated national
observing system.  It is not clear how this will work in practice, as
NOAO has no contractual relation to private observatories.  The carrot
here is that NSF funds (especially for instrumentation) could be
strategically spread out among the observatories, following the
strategic plan.  So this will be a big incentive for a small
observatory which is having difficulty finding instrumentation funds.
It is not clear whether the decadal survey is calling for NOAO to put
all its effort only into this coordination effort, and to privatize
mountaintop operations at KPNO, or that NOAO should become more
dominant in the astronomical community, and take on responsibilities
like the 30-meter telescope that the decadal survey is calling for.

  There is an old plan for sharing instrumentation between ARC and
WIYN.  WIYN is thinking about going more into remote observing, and
want to learn from us.  They are dropping the queue observing option.

Walterbos points out that our limiting factor on instrumentation is
not so much financial, but people. 

******Recent Developments in Instrumentation************************

Tony Tyson had expressed interest in getting the Big Throughput Camera
to APO.  Tony and Jon Holtzmann have been discussing the details.  

Jon is still waiting for the arrival of the new, upgraded slit-viewing

  We are considering putting in the low-resolution grating in place of
the direct imaging mode in DIS.  No-one is using DIS for direct
imaging, and this would have all three gratings in, thus precluding
the need to continuously change between gratings.  If one did want to
carry out direct imaging, or observe with slit masks, then one would
have to change things out, but this would happen much less often than
the current several-times-a-week switching of DIS gratings. 

  Interestingly, in the last quarter or two, almost all echelle users
have been from UC (it is the most used instrument among UC observers).
People have been saying that they've been having trouble reducing the
data, given the crowding between the orders.  The UC people have
developed methods within IRAF to carry out these reductions, and will
communicate this to the collaboration soon. 

  Last month's minutes are approved. 

  Next meeting, 11:30 Eastern time,  September 11, 2000

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