Subject: 03/14/01 minutes of APO 3.5m User's Committee meeting

From: strauss@astro.Princeton.EDU

Submitted: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 09:07:26 -0500 (EST)

Message number: 496 (previous: 495, next: 497 up: Index)

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

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

Missing: Alan Uomoto and Jon Holtzman

Today's meeting consisted of a series of relatively short reports on a
large variety of topics, to wit:

-the strategic planning process
-a possible new IR instrument, RIVMOS
-recent weather (and prospects)
-DIS and WFI chips
-enclosure drive motors
-telescope throughput
-summer shutdown planning
-GRB interupt policy
-a possible new ARC member

*******************The Strategic Planning Process*****************
  At the last meeting, we discussed gathering input from various
people about long-term goals for the observatory.  Rene Walterbos is
putting together a list of such people, including some people from
outside ARC; if you have people in mind who would be good for this
(including yourself!), please let Rene know. 

  Another related thing on the horizon is the astronomy-community-wide
discussion now going on, on the future of NSF's interaction with
private observatories: how might the astronomy community get access to
private telescopes which have instruments built from NSF funds?  Does
each observatory need its own suite of basic instruments, or are we
duplicating effort between observatories?  Much discussion ensued;
this issue touches upon many of the basic cultural issues of the
astronomical community.  A related issue is how the 3.5m will be
financed once the SDSS has finished, as currently there is much
cost-sharing between the 3.5m and the SDSS. 

*******************A possible new IR instrument, RIVMOS*****************
This is our most active prospect for a new IR instrument.  Bruce
Woodgate is building this with NGST funds.  We'll discuss this in more
detail at the next meeting; before then, a prospectus for the
instrument will be distributed. 

*******************Recent weather (and prospects)*****************
The weather has been terrible lately.  In the Fourth quarter of 2000
the telescope was closed 60% of the time (mostly in dark time!) due to
weather; normal is 40% at that time of year).  One consequence is that
with increased rainfall and plant growth, the pollen may be very bad
in spring and summer, bad enough that it can close the telescope to
dust.  We might want to consider changing our dust limit a bit, given
that we'll be rewashing the optics over the summer.

*******************DIS and WFI (wide-field imager) chips*****************
Good chips are beginning to arrive at a greater rate.  The DIS chips
are from EEV, while the WFI chips are from Lincoln Labs. Once the
chips arrive, there is a lot of work to install them into DIS.  Chris
Stubbs is optimistic that they will be ready for final installation in

*******************Enclosure drive motors*****************
The current motors are having bearing problems, and are a single-point
failure mode, and therefore need to be made more reliable. Jon Davis
has identified a vendor to rebuild these for a reasonable price, to be
done in the summer shutdown.

*******************Telescope throughput*****************
Jon Holtzman has been making a series of measurements of throughput,
motivated by the desire to do faint-object (i.e., fainter than 21)
spectroscopy on DIS.  The preliminary conclusion is that the
throughput is down measurably since the last aluminization, but not
catastrophically.  The principal limitation on faint-object
spectroscopy is not reduced throughput, but rather readnoise in the
DIS electronics, which the upgrade will much improve.  Further
throughput tests are planned, and a strategy to wash and/or
realuminize the optics is being developed in response to the

  We're looking into having an additional half-time observing
specialist (to be shared with the NMSU 1-meter).  Gillespie and
Holtzman have started interviewing candidates, but are eager to get
further qualified candidates.  If you know of anybody, please let them

*******************Summer shutdown planning*****************
Gillespie has started investigating options for realuminization during the
shutdown.  Perhaps if this is done at KPNO, we could do some
work on the primary mirror support system there as well.  This would
make for a more extended shutdown, and perhaps pull it somewhat
later (e.g., October).  Remember that KPNO will not do aluminization
over the summer, as they use that time to do their own mirrors. 

  The real driver for this is faint-object spectroscopy; the DIS
upgrade will probably give a much larger qualitative improvement.  

  We discussed the possibility of doing the realuminization in May
2002, when the nights will be shorter. 

*******************GRB interupt policy*****************
  Ed Turner has a draft suggested policy from the folks at JHU about
how interruptions might be handled.  He is iterating with them, and
will distribute it to the committee when this has converged.  There is
clearly a premium on being the first observatory to do fast follow-up
of HETE objects; they will have their first accurate coordinates as
early as May.

*******************a possible new ARC member institution*****************
The astronomy department at the University of Colorado has expressed
interest in buying the WSU allocation of telescope time.  A delegation
from Colorado came out to the telescope last week, and were quite
impressed. Over the last year, the WSU time has been bought up on a
quarterly basis, mostly by Princeton.

Last month's minutes are approved. 

Next meeting will happen on Monday, April 9, at 11:30 AM 

APO APO APO APO APO  Apache Point Observatory 3.5m  APO APO APO
APO  This is message 496 in the apo35-general archive. You can find
APO  the archive on
APO  To join/leave the list, send mail to
APO  To post a message, mail it to