Subject: APO User's Committee meeting, 2/13/01, minutes

From: strauss@astro.Princeton.EDU

Submitted: Tue, 13 Feb 2001 14:18:45 -0500 (EST)

Message number: 490 (previous: 489, next: 491 up: Index)

  Apache Point Observatory 3.5m User's Committee Meeting
		February 15, 2001

Attending: Bruce Gillespie, Chris Stubbs, Paula Szkody, Ed Turner,
Michael Strauss, Alan Uomoto, Rene Walterbos, Lew Hobbs, Jon Holtzman

  Paula Szkody is taking over from Chris Stubbs as the new User's
Committee representative from the University of Washington.  Welcome,
Paula!  Chris will continue to take active part in these meetings as
Telescope Scientist. 

Ed Turner is leading a large group of people which is starting to put
together a plan for improvements to the observatory over the next
year; in particular, how to budget the Capital Improvements Fund
(CIF), the money for telescope and instrument improvements from the ARC BoG.
They endeavoured to make a plan that made sense both in terms of
budget, and terms of the people available.  They've tried not to bite
off more than we can chew, a mistake we've made to a certain extent in
the past.  This year, we also have the luxury of not being in crisis

  The decision was made to put more emphasis on instrumentation, in
terms of budgetary work, relative to previous years.  Previous years
put much more emphasis on telescope improvements.  It now seems that
the fact that our instrumentation is getting out of date is the
principal limitation in doing science.  Having said this, the plan
aims to maintain momentum in several key telescope improvement
projects as well.

The single largest item in the spending plan is the DIS upgrade: new
chips and electronics, in particular, with leverage from NSF funds.
The bulk of the work is being done by Stubbs' group in UW.  The goal
is to get this all done by the summer shutdown.  Stubbs reports that
things are on track for this goal.  With the new chips, we'll get of
order 1600A of spectral coverage on each side. 

  Walterbos: We really could use a higher-resolution grating,
especially for kinematic studies of extended objects.

  Uomoto: We're working on a new, improved slit wheel for DIS, that
would allow more slits to be available at one time.

  Another big initiative is work on the baffling for the telescope.
The very strong hope is that this will be a photometric telescope at
the end of this process, even for Stubbs' wide-field instrument.

  The Capital Improvement Funds will also contribute some labor to
Stubbs' wide-field camera.  8-10 chips are in hand; the balance should
arrive in the summertime.  The camera will have a total of 20 2KX4K
Lincoln Lab chips, and will have a roughly 15'X30' field of view.
There will be of order 4 filters.  Pixels are 15 microns, or 0.08";
one has the option of binning down.  The camera will have a very fast

  On the infrared front, human resources are the limiting factor.
Perhaps the negotiations between Chicago and JHU will address work on
an IR camera.

  There are funds earmarked to the echelle for a design for a new

  At the site, work will continue on telescope performance itself,
including the new top end (Jon Davis is leading the effort on the
design on that).  
  Uomoto: Can an instrument be mounted at prime focus with the new
  Stubbs: We're really not set up to support such a structure
mechanically.  Also, switching instruments would be quite
time-consuming in the middle of the night.

  Further work is also happening on stabilizing the optics, and
vibrations thereof.

  Russell Owen, Craig Loomis and others are working on a new remote
observing software system that is platform-independent. 

  Walterbos is leading an effort to put together medium-range and
long-range plans for the telescope.  The latter should be in the
context of the Decadal Survey, and the end of the SDSS.   A variety of
people would be asked to give their individual visions for the
telescope.  These would be collated, and presented at a Fall user's
community meeting.  

  Who should be asked for their input on this?  Send your suggestions
to Rene ( and Ed (  Should
this just include people from the APO community?  Perhaps some outside
people to give ideas, e.g., George Jacoby as the director of WIYN.

  Gillespie: The role of mid-size telescopes over the next 10-20 years
is now hotly debated in the astronomical community.  Might they become
'niche' telescopes, streamlined for doing one thing very well?

  All of this is tied to the future plans for the SDSS 2.5m telescope
(whose operating costs are much higher than the 3.5m).  Remember that
the 3.5m operating costs are as low as they are partly because of the
sharing with the Sloan.

  Karl Glazebrook's program to observe GRB's with the echelle (see
last month's minutes) went through a technical drill; it is been shown
to be technically feasible.  Szkody: Remember that a 1/2 hour
interruption can really screw up synoptic observations, of which UW
people do quite a bit.  Stubbs: Such people could be reimbursed with
Director's Discretionary time later in the quarter, presumably
somewhat more than the 1/2 hour of time that was taken.  In any case,
before this program goes into effect, the observatory will have to get
a detailed plan from Glazebrook about its implementation.

  No comments on last month's minutes. 

  Next meeting, March 12, 11:30 AM East Coast time. 


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