Subject: 10/08/01 Minutes of 3.5m User's Committee Meeting

From: strauss@astro.Princeton.EDU

Submitted: Wed, 10 Oct 2001 10:47:28 -0400 (EDT)

Message number: 529 (previous: 528, next: 530 up: Index)

  Apache Point Observatory 3.5m User's Committee Meeting
		October 8, 2001

Attending: Chris Stubbs, Mike Shull, Bruce Gillespie, Ed Turner,
Michael Strauss, Lew Hobbs

Not attending: Alan Uomoto, Jon Holtzman, Rene Walterbos

********************Changes of instruments***************************

One of the strengths of APO is the ability for quick instrument
change, allowing for flexibility in the face of uncertain weather and
changing scientific needs; scientists have been taking advantage of
this flexibility more and more over the last year or so.  The
Observatory does not wish to discourage utilization of our quick
instrument change capability in any way, including in response to
entirely unanticipated circumstances of some sort when it is not
possible to give any advance warning.  However, some (including the
writer of these minutes) have somewhat abused this ability, by
requesting anticipatable instrument changes with very little advance
warning.  The more warning the observing specialists have about an
instrument change, the better; at least 24 hours notice should be
given if at all possible.  Indeed, every observer should send an
e-mail to at least 24 hours before their run
starts, reiterating the instrumental setup, even if there is no change
from what was initially requested.  It may take of order an hour to
ready DIS, for example, and this choice can affect decisions on when
the observing specialists arrive in the late afternoon for checkout.

  Note also that instruments are scheduled for downtime/maintenance
based on the schedule of instruments requested, so not every
instrument is necessarily available at all times.  

  If you anticipate the possibility of switching instruments in your
program, put a note to this effect in your observing proposal.

**********************Status of DIS upgrade****************************
Stubbs: We've been shaking down the system.  There is an engineering
chip in the dewar now.  The system shows higher noise than we would
like, but we'll get that tracked down soon. 

  The current plan is to take DIS offline roughly October 24-November
7.  The U. Washington engineering staff will fly out to the mountain
with the new dewars, etc., and replace them during this time frame,
with the help of the APO site staff.  We are planning to replace
everything downstream of the spectrographic optics, including the
acquisition hardware.

  If the schedule slips substantially for any reason, we'll do this
upgrade in the late November bright run instead.

*********************Strategic Plan**********************************
   The Board of Governors has asked Rene Walterbos and Ed Turner to
prepare a plan for the direction of the observatory over the next 5-10
years.  Comments were solicited from a variety of people, both within
and outside the ARC community. 

   For the upcoming BoG meeting (just before Thanksgiving), Turner
will abbreviate the usual report on the status of the observatory, and
spend more time on the strategic plan.   

   Three general issues will be presented to the board:

     1.  Overall science goals of the observatory (to be presented by
	 Ed Turner).  We need to decide upon the balance between: 
	 -Continuing to be a general-purpose 4-meter class telescope
	    for the ARC community, with a broad range of instrumentation;
	 -Evolving the telescope towards a specialized niche application
	  (as suggested, e.g., by the Decadal survey for private
	   telescopes of this aperture). 

   The majority of those who sent in comments emphasized the former
over the latter. They point out the need for a 4-meter class telescope
for doing preparatory work for 8-meter class projects. 

    2.  Plans for long-term funding of the observatory, especially
post-SDSS (to be presented by Rene Walterbos).  Many of the expenses,
especially manpower on the mountain are shared between APO and SDSS.

    3.  Medium and long-term plans for the site facility and
maintenance thereof, and future operational modes (to be presented by
Bruce Gillespie).

************* Capital Improvement Fund (CIF) Plans***************
  Every year, Bruce and Ed put together a list of high-priority items
for the telescope, to improve operations and capabilities.  This year,
the list includes: 

    -Telescope Baffling: Well underway; plans are in place, and it is time to
start actually building and testing the hardware. 

    -Money for the Colorado near-IR instrument, to allow it to be
	   upgradeable to a 2K square chip.

    -Money for engineering for Stubbs' new optical imager. 

    -Echelle upgrade: The main item is an improved detector. (It is
reported that the guider/acquisition camera is much improved due to
better software; it is no longer the limiting factor in faint object
    -Fast guiding.

    -Autofocus.  We have all the relevant hardware in hand; we just
		 need to do the software, which Russell Owen may be in a
		 position to do. 

    -DIS optics upgrade.  There is an optical design in hand, and
quotations from two vendors.  When the design is verified, we would
plan to fabricate and install the new optics next year.

    -Upgrade of Remark software, making it able to work on multiple
		platforms.  Loomis and Owen have been working on this
		for some time. 

    -Further work on the new top-end, which is the design phase now. 

  Editor's note: I am impressed by the paucity of telescope
infrastructure items here.  Previous years' lists were dominated by
items such as primary and secondary mirror support, worries about
cracks in the primary, and dome motors; it is a real sign of how far
we've come that we've put these problems behind us!

The user's committee representative from each institution will report
about oversubscription rates, nominations for science highlights
(including text, pretty pictures, and graphics), and reports on
publications (including preprints and conference proceedings) through
September 30.  This is needed by the end of October; send it to Rene
Walterbos, Ed Turner, and Bruce Gillespie.  These will be used in the
upcoming presentation to the Board.

  Chris Stubbs reports that he finds that observing with SPICAM in 3x3
binning, giving 0.4" pixels, works particularly well.  See
apo35-general #528.

  Minutes of last meeting approved. 

  The next meeting will be held November 12, 2001, at 11:30 AM East
Coast time. 

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