Subject: Minutes of June 3 User's committee meeting

From: strauss@astro.Princeton.EDU

Submitted: Mon, 3 Jun 1996 16:27:08 -0400 (EDT)

Message number: 67 (previous: 66, next: 68 up: Index)

 Minutes of APO 3.5m User's Committee Phone Conference
			June 3, 1996

  Attending: Alan Uomoto, Bruce Gillespie, Ed Turner (Chair), Lew
Hobbs, Julie Lutz, Michael Strauss (taking minutes), Rene Walterbos,
Chris Stubbs, Tim Heckman

Last month's minutes are approved. 

Fire danger continues to threaten (see last month's minutes).  Dry
lightning storms are a particular danger. 

We took an informal poll to ask the question whether the observatory
was found to be satisfactory to users at all the institutions
  Lew Hobbs: Partially satisfactory. GRIM users are the happiest, in
  Julie Lutz: Partially satisfactory. Mostly using GRIM. 
  Michael Strauss: Two thesis students are getting good data. The
Princeton time is somewhat undersubscribed; there is a general
impression that the telescope is not yet ready for people to start
using it intensively.  In particular, it is clear that it is not yet
possible to do challenging observations. 
  Chris Stubbs: Frustration is quite high at U. Washington (most
people use DIS, and haven't been able to do challenging science).
  Alan Uomoto: Unsatisfactory.  Can't do front-line science, due to
state of instrumentation.
  Rene Walterbos: Doesn't feel like a 3.5m telescope, unsatisfactory
from that point of view.  People are doing good science, but doing
projects appropriate for a 2m telescope.
  Bruce Gillespie agrees with these assessments, but notes that the
goals set 6-8 months ago have largely been met.

 We spent most of the meeting discussing two documents. Chris Stubbs
has written a 3.5m status report (to be distributed to the APO
user's community in a few days when it is finalized), which discusses
what he sees as the outstanding issues which keep the observatory from
being a first-class facility.  Alan Uomoto has written a more informal
document discussing the experiences of the JHU group who recently had
a several-day on-site "training run", with recommendations. 

  Deficiencies with systems are well-defined; we have characterized
all the relevant anomalies; now it is time to go fix them!  We are not
yet serving the needs of the user community.  

Turner: one exception: What is the status of the throughput
measurement for the various instruments? It remains unclear; is the
problem in the telescope optics, or the instruments themselves?

Stubbs: Have measured reflectances of all mirrors; they seem to be OK.
Throughput degradation seen in DIS must be interior to DIS [Note, see
the results of a recent measurement of the DIS throughput on, and Turner's recent
discussion of related issues on apo35-dis message #17].  Similarly
for DSC.  GRIM throughput seems to be OK; more throughput data have
been taken in the last week, but not yet analyzed.

  There has been a lot of progress over the last year, especially on
mechanical aspects of the drive system, etc.  Lots of things to do:
getting the guider working well, beating down telescope oscillations,
etc.  Given the current resources (money and personnel) it will take
*years* to get everything fixed.  In particular, there are no
reseources to work on instruments (and to start thinking about next
generation instruments).

Uomoto: To whom is this document written? Send it to the Board,
together with priorities, price tags.

Gillespie: Thermal management: work is needed to get quantify thermal
contribution to seeing. and to ameliorate it.

Stubbs: Will try to get a distributable version of this out soon.

We then discussed the JHU document from Alan Uomoto. 
Alan Uomoto:
  Telescope works well: it points well.  Images are OK.  Were
disappointed by the instrumentation: out-of-date and neglected, not
kept in working condition (e.g., noise problems in various CCD's,

  Gillespie: Steve Knapp is nominally half-time for new instrument
development.  Has put a lot of effort into DSC Filter Box, and new DIS
  Turner: Some of the problem is that the APO people don't have the
authority to work on some of the instruments (e.g., they have not been
released the relevant documentation, or have been told that they do
not have permission to open up instruments to start mucking around).
  Stubbs: There is no well-defined person whose responsibility is to
measure, characterize, and fix problems with instruments.  We really
need an instrument scientist and instrument engineer.  In practice,
you need an instrument scientist who is actually using the instrument.
For future instruments, team must commit to play the role of
instrument scientist, and also promise to hand over relevant
documentation and control to observatory at the appropriate time.

Stubbs: Got NSF funding (~$800K) for a new imaging camera.

Turner: An attempt to break our problems down in a series of areas:
  1. Communications (internet, connectivity issues; various
possibilities for improvement).  
  2. New Secondary.  Rough figuring of secondary (to a spherical
surface) is approximately finished.  Plan to get together small group
to send out letters to possible vendors for the polishing contract.
  3. Instrument-related things: Problems with existing instruments,
plans for the next generation.  Let's have a meeting of instrument
engineers, instrument builders, to come up with a more coherent
strategy.  How are we going to fix the DIS?  Take it off the telescope
for a few months, perhaps?  
  4. Software.  We need to rewrite a good deal of observatory software
(especially Remark and mc code; move to X-windows).  Board has
declined to fund this yet.
  5. Telescope: tracking, pointing, scattered light.  Telescope
improvement group does exist (including Stubbs et al, Klaene, Davis,
  6. Finding resources for tackling some of these problems.  Rather
unclear (the NSF, and the institutions).  Stubbs thinks the NSF will
be open to a proposal for improving existing instruments.

  There is also an NSF program to which we might apply for funding to
improve the network access of the telescope. 

  Next meeting: July 8, 1996 at the usual time. 

  Put off until next meeting:
    o data archiving at APO--is a minimal semi-automated archive of image
      data at the site worth the cost and added work?  Something on the
      scale of the "Save the Bits" program at KPNO.
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