Subject: APO 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 11/22/04

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Tue, 23 Nov 2004 18:59:57 -0700

Message number: 857 (previous: 854, next: 862 up: Index)

							APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 11/22/04

Attending:  Ed Turner, Suzanne Hawley, Michael Strauss, Russet 
McMillan, Karl Glazebrook, Bruce Balick, Bruce Gillespie, John Bally

Absent:  Al Harper, Jon Holtzman, Don York, Rene Walterbos, Jim Green

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


Highlights of Board of Governors, Futures Committee meetings

Rather than go through the available 3.5-m Annual Report in detail, Ed 
and Suzanne listed the highlights:

	[see downloadable pdf file at]

	o main concern was continued loss of key technical people within the 
ARC institutions

	o good news was that science highlights in past year show more 
richness and diversity than in past

	o also good news that NIC-FPS was delivered and is being commissioned, 
very nearly on schedule

	o plus good news that Suzanne Hawley was selected and has agreed to 
serve as new 3.5-m Director

Suzanne descibed her plans for 2005 (cf. pp. 38-39 in Annual Report).  
Under Plans and Issues, she emphasized the shortfall of on- and 
off-site technical support likely to be manifest next year.  This is 
somewhat aggravated by the uncertainties of SDSS-II which will not 
likely be resolved until sometime in 2005.  The identification of new 
technical talent will be a high priority, both in telescope and 
instrumentation support areas.

The focus of CIF spending will be on image quality, optics safety, and 
instrumentation improvements.  Planned improvements to DIS will include 
new gratings, UV throughput, and fixing the dichroic split problem, all 
subject to time and money constraints.  Significant funding will be 
devoted to the "new top-end" project, with APO and Washington staff 
leading the effort to improve image stability and enhance mirror 

The plans for the annual engineering shutdown are being worked, with an 
eye toward better utilization of manpower (e.g., avoiding having 
engineers working on both the 3.5-m and SDSS telescopes at the same 

On the University of Virginia front, a technical proposal was received 
from UVa to build a near-IR medium-resolution spectrograph for APO, 
called Triplespec.  This proposal was forwarded to several "friends" of 
APO for feasibility review, and favorable comments and constructive 
recommendations were received and forwarded back to John Wilson and 
Mike Skrutskie at UVa.  John and Mike presented their proposal to the 
Futures Committee, and overall there is a strong technical consensus to 
proceed.  Suzanne is forming an Instrument Implementation Team to work 
with UVa; plans are being drawn to have the team visit UVa next month.

On the issue of possible UVa partnership in ARC, it appears that the 
scientists of both ARC and UVa are largely eager over the prospects of 
UVa membership in ARC.  The administrative processes and money issues 
will be challenges.  Michael asked how much of a share are we 
considering.  Suzanne said 10% is being discussed, and this appears not 
to be a problem finding that much of an allocation from within the 
existing ARC partners.  She mentioned that the ARC Board established a 
committee (Mike Shull, Rene Walterbos, Ron Irving) to help her in the 
continuing discussions with UVa.

For 2005 CIF planning, Suzanne reiterated that she wants us to do some 
long-standing DIS upgrades, since DIS is the majority-use instrument on 
the telescope.  This would include new gratings (better matched to the 
new detectors), fix the UV-throughput problem, and fix the dichroic 
split problem.  These would be done in serial order, as funds allowed.  
Also, the new top-end project will be a high priority, with completion 
hoped for by the summer shutdown.  Another resource that is needed is 
instrument engineering expertise--whether this become a new site hire 
or provided by other means is TBD.  Rounding out the list of CIF 
projects are TUI completion, spare drive boxes, new drive 
controllers/servos, and contingency held for NIC-FPS, Triplespec, and 
operations in the event of no SDSS-II.


Telescope twilight scheduling:

Suzanne will institute a new scheduling policy effective starting Q1 
next year.  Telescope time will be allocated and scheduled starting at 
sunset and ending at sunrise, instead of the 12-degree twilights that 
have been in use for several years.  The reasons for this change 

	o prevents confusion on when astronomers have control of the telescope

	o encourages users to take more time for calibrations

	o promotes use of scientifically productive twilight time for near-IR 


High-speed photometer proposal:

Suzanne report that Anjum Mukadam and her collaborators have submitted 
NSF and ATI proposals for full funding of this instrument.  If funded, 
the instrument will become a "visiting" instrument at the 3.5-m.  We 
should know in a few months if the project is funded or not.


Huzzas to Ed Turner:

Bruce Balick noted the Board of Governors gave Ed Turner a resounding 
round of applause and appreciation for his service to ARC and its 
community over the past decade.  On behalf of the Users Committee, he 
wants it noted for the record how much the committee members have 
appreciated his inspired leadership.


NIC-FPS Commissioning

Russet McMillan has been working with the NIC-FPS team at APO the past 
few nights.  She reported that the early commissioning is going very 
smoothly, the instrument and detector look "beautiful, with gorgeous 
image quality."  The 60 kHz noise is gone.  Weather permitting, some of 
the shared-risk commissioning science has been and will be undertaken.  
So far, things look good for initial science operations to begin as 
planned in Q1/Q2.  The TUI interface to the instrument is largely 
working (there is no Remark user interface).

In Q1/05, NIC-FPS will be "campaign"-scheduled for one solid week each 
bright period for each of the three months in the quarter, assuming 
there's enough demand.  This block scheduling is being used to ensure 
that the NIC-FPS engineers can be available to help new observers.



Note the recent announcement by Suzanne regarding the future of GRIM2:

	Subject: 	Plans for GRIM2
	Date: 	November 9, 2004 12:57:53 PM MST

Pending the successful commissioning of NICFPS, we are beginning to 
plan for the retirement of GRIM2.  This message is to let people know 
that GRIM2 will still be available in "normal" operation (one quadrant 
is still bad) during Q1 2005.  Users should take advantage of having 
both GRIM2 and NICFPS operational in order to obtain cross-calibration 
data in preparation for transferring programs to NICFPS.  Depending on 
the demand for GRIM2 we will consider retiring GRIM2 after Q1 2005.  If 
you anticipate needing GRIM2 during or after Q2 2005, please let us 
know now so that we can make an informed plan for its retirement.

Suzanne Hawley
Bruce Gillespie

[Note added here:  User Committee members are encouraged to make sure 
their users provide any feedback to Suzanne ASAP.  Note that there are 
a few somewhat specialized GRIM2 filters that are not provided with 


Futures Committee note:

Suzanne noted that the Futures Committee has met thrice already and 
plans a few more face-to-face meetings through next year.  Although 
chartered to consider issues in 2008 and beyond, many current and 
near-term issues are discussed, much in the same way as the Users 
Committee does.  Although some of the Futures and Users Committee 
institutional representatives are the same person, in some cases 
they're not.  Suzanne considers it important for the Futures and Users 
Committee members at each institution, if they're not the same person, 
have frequent discussions on the present and future issues facing the 
telescope, and try to "get on the same page."


Last month's minutes were approved without comment.

Next phonecon will be on Monday, December 20, 2004, at 11:30 AM Eastern 

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