Subject: APO 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 12/20/04

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Mon, 3 Jan 2005 10:51:52 -0700

Message number: 885 (previous: 884, next: 886 up: Index)

							APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 12/20/04

Attending:  Ed Turner, Suzanne Hawley, Michael Strauss, Russet 
McMillan, Karl Glazebrook, Bruce Balick, Bruce Gillespie, Don Lamb, Jon 

Absent:  Al Harper, Don York, Rene Walterbos, Fred Hearty, Jim Green

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


Observer auto-reminder system implemented:

Ed reported that APO has recently started sending automated reminders 
to observers about their upcoming observing runs (see message 874 in 
the apo35-general archive).  He wants the Users Committee members to be 
alert for any feedback about the system from users, e.g., is it too 
much like SPAM, and is the 48 hour advance alert the correct warning 
time for most programs (it may be too long an interval for an extended 
observing program that uses several contiguous nights)?  Ed suggested 
that Suzanne poll the committee next meeting for comments.


Upcoming Gamma-Ray Burst Targets-of-Opportunity programs:

With the successful launch of the Swift GRB satellite (Swift is not an 
acronym: "The observatory is actually named after a small, nimble bird, 
..." says the NASA website), at least three groups within ARC have 
proposals and/or plans to mount fast-attack imaging and spectroscopic 
observations of GRBs in the coming quarter. About four years ago, we 
had set up a system and protocol for observing targets from alerts from 
HETE and LINEAR, but the positional accuracies from these satellites 
turned out not be be as good as hoped for, at least not for Karl 
Glazebrook's echelle part of the APO observing.  Don Lamb was able to 
get several GRB observations at APO using UChicago time, and these were 
arranged relatively informally, with hours/days lead time.  In the past 
year, these alerts have been used to trigger APO observations 
relatively infrequently.

With Swift, things may be different.  Swift alerts should be rapid and 
with better pointing and V magnitude information.  This perhaps 
uniquely enables APO to quickly put large glass on these targets for 
echelle spectra (if the target is bright enough), and/or get deep 
near-IR photometry with NIC-FPS if the target is extremely reddened.  
Proposals from several ARC teams have been received for next quarter, 
and Suzanne stated that we want to see if there is a way to coordinate 
these programs to maximize science efficiency while minimizing the 
impact to the rest of the science programs on the 3.5-m telescope.  Don 
and Karl pointed out that the telescope has several unique advantages 
for GRB work, including fast instrument change capability, the other 
robotic ground-based telescopes chasing GRBs have much smaller 
aperture, and we now have a state-of-the-art near-IR imager. The 
details of the alert protocols, the frequency, and the lead time will 
all be factors on how well the community will tolerate the interrupts.  
Anything but rapid response might not allow the maximum science return 
from the Swift alerts.  Karl suggested that we make this an ARC "Key 
Project."  Don thinks that Swift may be hugely productive in Q1, and 
that we should be aggressive and not miss out on the initial big 
science opportunities. Jon Holtzman said this is a great opportunity 
for our telescope, but there is a need for rapid publication of results 
in order that the effort and disruption are felt to be worthwhile.
Bruce Balick thought we should go all-out during the first two quarters 
of 2005.

Karl predicted that there will be ~100 bursts/year, and that 25-50 of 
them will be observable at APO.  Don thought that the number of bursts 
that can be observed with the echelle is probably only 2-4 per quarter, 
and for NIC-FPS, 10 per quarter.  Russet pointed out that it will be 
difficult, if not impossible, for the Observing Specialists to perform 
service observing with NIC-FPS in January, and she feels it is 
imperative that the CU instrument team be in the loop during all of Q1 
for NIC-FPS observations.  Suzanne said that during January, NIC-FPS 
will only be available as a ToO or backup instrument during 21-30 
January when the NIC-FPS observing block with CU support is scheduled. 
We can't commit the instrument or the Observing Specialists in the 
first three weeks of January.  This is to protect the health and safety 
of the instrument during commissioning and OS training. We will 
evaluate the situation again at the end of January.

To explore the best way to implement an ARC-wide program for GRB 
followup, Suzanne will ask the interested parties to put together a 
plan for review.  It should cover such things as how a GRB is 
triggered, a decision tree for what observations are to be made, and a 
discussion of data dissemination and payback of time to users whose 
observations are interrupted. This plan should be prepared quickly so 
that we can be ready to take advantage of the Swift opportunity.  The 
users committee will be updated at the next meeting.  Members of the 
committee who were not present are encouraged to communicate their 
views to Suzanne and Bruce.


Triplespec and UVirginia:

Suzanne reported on a visit to UVirginia by herself and our Triplespec 
"Instrument Implementation Team."  Suzanne, Mark Klaene, Craig Loomis, 
and Alan Uomoto recently attended meetings at Charlottesville with the 
instrument developers on design, fabrication, and operational issues. 
Many technical issues were worked on, and there was a good dialog on 
all feedback from earlier review comments.  Things are going forward 
well; we will review the proposed changes to the optical design that 
has been proposed to better match our telescope.  There is a phone 
meeting planned for January and a face-to-face meeting at APO in April. 
Suzanne also held largely productive discussions with Bob Rood about 
potential UVa membership in ARC.


Director Transition:

Ed Turner noted that he had been contacted by some users who were 
wondering when the transition will occur.  For the record, the official 
transition date for Suzanne Hawley to become the next 3.5-m Director is 
1 January 2005.


NIC-FPS Commissioning

Russet McMillan and Bruce Gillespie reported that NIC-FPS commissioning 
is going well.  It's a "very nice instrument" that is easy to use and 
already has a competent TUI remote interface.  The instrument seems to 
have a minor vacuum problem, and the Fabry-Perot etalon is not yet 
working to specification and probably won't be usable in Q1.  More 
commissioning is scheduled during the remainder of December.


SDSS-II NSF Proposal:

Bruce Gillespie and Michael Strauss mentioned that the NSF is planning 
a panel review of the SDSS-II proposal in February.


Last month's minutes were approved without comment.

Next phonecon will be on Monday, January 24, at 11:30 AM Eastern Time.  
Note:  Call-in details will be different because we'll be using a 
commercial teleconference service.

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