Subject: APO 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 3/28/05

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Tue, 5 Apr 2005 15:45:29 -0600

Message number: 898 (previous: 897, next: 899 up: Index)

                         APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 3/28/05

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Michael Strauss, John Bally, Fred Hearty, 
Stephane Beland, Bruce Gillespie, Rene Walterbos, Don York

Absent: Al Harper, Russet McMillan, Karl Glazebrook, Bruce Balick, Jon 

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


UVa and Triplespec NIR spectrograph:

Based on recent discussions with Bob Rood at UVa, Suzanne reported that 
the situation there may develop quickly to a point where we may need to 
discuss alternative arrangements with them to acquire the Triplespec 
NIR spectrograph for the 3.5-m telescope.  Suzanne would like to 
confirm our users' potential interest in having Triplespec at APO in 
order to proceed using a variety of paths in the  negotiations. Michael 
stated that Triplespec seems like a "wonderful thing" and that the 
3.5-m telescope needs this instrument.  He added that spectroscopic NIR 
followup would be broadly useful, and in particular for QSOs and 
brown-dwarf candidates identified by SDSS, plus for studies of unusual 
objects such as white dwarfs and carbon stars.

Don asked when Triplespec could be on our telescope, and Suzanne said 
probably some time next year.  John asked what the estimated value of 
the instrument was, and Suzanne replied around $1.2M.  Don asked what 
the resolving power would be, and John replied that it would be around 
3000.  Don then asked if it weren't true that everybody is building or 
planning a NIR spectrographic capability for other telescopes, so in 
order to justify it for our telescope we would need to propose a large 
campaign-like program for it that could only be done at APO.  Michael 
pointed out that everybody has a DIS-like instrument at their 
telescope, but our DIS is still the most-used instrument on our 
telescope, even for small programs; Triplespec would be similarly 
popular, in his opinion.  Don then said that we need to determine the 
detailed "useful" spectral regions that Triplespec would furnish, given 
its resolution and contamination of the NIR spectrum by atmospheric 
features.  Michael Strauss said a web site where the IR spectrum lives 
seems to be down right now, at a link off the UKIRT web site:  Bruce said that it's possible that John 
Wilson at UVa could furnish us with a simulated sample spectrum for our 

Don said the he thought it would be great, in general, for APO to have 
Triplespec.  However, his personal interest for NIR emission-line 
spectroscopy would be largely satisfied better by the F-P in NIC-FPS, 
when that becomes available.  Rene stated that NMSU astronomers are 
still interested in Triplespec, but that there is some concern about 
the potential cost in telescope time.  John added that CU is interested 
in the long-slit capabilities of Triplespec, but they are also hoping 
to use the F-P in NIC-FPS for much of their science programs.  Fred 
added that the F-P is not as useful for extra-galactic work as 
Triplespec would be.  Suzanne, speaking for UW, said that her users are 
very interested in NIR spectroscopy, especially for stars.

Based on this discussion and other factors, Suzanne announced she will 
talk to Bob Rood at UVa about alternative paths for ARC to acquire 
Triplespec for the 3.5-m telescope.


GRB status and plans:

Suzanne said that four ARC institutions submitted 3.5-m GRB ToO 
proposals for Q2, designating 12 half-nights of time to compensate 
bumped observing programs.  We had two alerts in March, and were able 
to get a NIR detection of an afterglow in K, H, J, and Z just last 
week.  These alerts also pointed out some "grey areas" in our 
compensation policy for bumped observers, which will be sorted out and 
clarified shortly.  Suzanne asked the Users Committee members to look 
at the GRB document which has been previously distributed to the 
committee members, but remember that there is proprietary information 
in the document--don't post it in a public place.  Users should be 
encouraged to read it, and get their comments back to committee members 
and to their institutional representative of the ARC Futures Committee.

Rene mentioned that NMSU had some ideas about the GRB-alert 
compensation policy, and which institutions should be charged for 
alerts and compensation time, plus concerns about protecting scheduled 
programs for thesis data.  Suzanne said that the plan is to wait and 
see how much GRB alert observing actually happens in the coming 
quarter, and that institutions should use the schedule-protection block 
in the observing proposals in compelling cases.

Don pointed out that Swift has announced that its alerts are going 
public in early April.  He has also heard that the VLT is gearing up 
for an extensive queue campaign observing program for GRB alerts. 
Suzanne pointed out that we will still have an advantage of fast NIR 
and echelle response, plus our access to sky that the VLT cannot reach.


Summer shutdown plans:

In the brief time remaining in the telecon, Suzanned mentioned that the 
2005 schedule for CIF projects and various engineering maintenance work 
on the telescope is somewhat fluid in the July through October time 
frame; there will be more discussion on this in future meetings.


Recent progress at the site:

Bruce G. reported that the new high-speed engineering camera (aka 
FastCamII) has been rendered fully operational and has been recently 
used to collect baseline data on image motion as part of the new 
top-end rebuild project.  Also, he announced that Fritz Stauffer has 
accepted an offer to start on 18 April as the site's new Systems and 
Network Administrator, and will work closely with Craig Loomis.


Next phonecon will be on Monday, April 25, at 8:30 AM Pacific Time.

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