Subject: APO 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 9/19/05

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Thu, 22 Sep 2005 15:19:54 -0600

Message number: 927 (previous: 926, next: 928 up: Index)

                         APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 9/19/05

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Michael Strauss, Al Harper, Karl  
Glazebrook, Bruce Gillespie, John Bally, Rene Walterbos, Matt Nelson  
(representing UVa as an observer), Jon Holtzman

Absent: Russet McMillan, Bruce Balick, Don York, Fred Hearty

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


User feedback, comments from Institutional representatives:

Princeton (Michael Strauss)--Michael had nothing much to report from  
the users; his users seem "happy".

UChicago (Al Harper)--Al had nothing to report from his users, but  
said he's interested in hearing about NIC-FPS.  He had nothing to say  
about feedback from the Chicago GRB team members.  Suzanne thanked  
him for his help in getting the grism salvaged from GRIM-I, which is  
now installed in NIC-FPS.

Colorado (John Bally)--John also said he wanted to hear the latest  
about NIC-FPS.  He mentioned that he's planning to bring a large  
group of students to APO shortly.

NMSU (Jon Holtzman)--Jon reported that he too recently led a student  
visit to APO, and an excellent time was had by all.  Rene reported  
that he has used TUI and thinks it is great, and that slit-view  
guiding is great.  Now we need to implement autofocus.  His DIS  
science data is OK, but the red fringing is still problematic.  There  
followed a group discussion of the new deep-depletion red chip that  
has recently been ordered for DIS to help with this problem.

Johns Hopkins (Karl Glazebrook)--Karl said that he's been educating  
users at JHU about our GRB program, otherwise he didn't have anything  
to report.

UWashington (Suzanne Hawley)--Suzanne mentioned that she recently  
held a 3.5-m users 'town meeting' in Seattle, in conjunction with the  
recent ARC Futures Committee meeting, and that she recently returned  
from a very successful observing trip at APO with her grad students.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

BruceG summarized highlights from the report (see below).  There was  
group discussion about the APOLLO lunar laser ranging project, and  
Bruce pointed out that there is a link to this project on the APO  
home page, which goes to 
apollo.html.  Tom Murphy, the APOLLO PI, has an interesting  
powerpoint presentation describing the project and its science goals  
that was recently shown to the ARC Futures Committee during the  
meeting in Seattle--contact Tom or BruceG if you would like to see  
it.  In Q4, APOLLO operations are regularly scheduled.  Suzanne  
pointed out that we're doing this using DD time 2-3 half-nights per  
quarter, with the balance being allocated from UW time.  Most APOLLO  
time is generally done in partial half-nights, like the lens  
monitoring program of Ed Turner's, and usually runs during the  
evening and morning twilights and sometimes at midnight.  Tom Murphy  
has agreed to help fund an APO position for a full-time 4th Observing  
Specialist, who will work part time on APOLLO.

Bruce mentioned that TUI has become nearly universally used, and  
Suzanne said that Remark will be retired in Q4 [ACTION:  Users  
Committee members need to inform their users that any remaining  
Remark holdouts must notify Suzanne and explain why they cannot  
migrate to TUI].  Jon Holtzman gave an overview of the planned DIS  
upgrades, which are to address getting better gratings, improving UV  
throughput, shifting the dichroic split, and replacing the red chip  
to reduce fringing.

[Below is the monthly telescope/instrument attachment submitted to  
the committee prior to the meeting]:

      3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights, 6/16  
through 9/15/05

                                  Bruce Gillespie

0) Overview

Much of the period covered was spent conducting summer engineering  
work on the telescope and instruments.  Between the shutdowns,  
scheduled observing was successful for roughly half the scheduled  
nights; the summer monsoon weather was unusually late in coming this  
year, affording substantial on-sky time for science during a season  
that the telescope is traditionally not used during more extended  
shutdowns.  For a variety of reasons, we scheduled three smaller  
shutdowns this year instead of one large one.  Other highlights  
include the upgrade of NIC-FPS (done in Boulder), which was returned  
to APO this past week; and the first "lase" to the moon of the APOLLO  
lunar laser ranging system.  Also, we made the transition to nearly  
full use of the new remote observing software, TUI.

1) Telescope

     o The problems encountered in the previous period with the  
enclosure rotation servo appear to have been resolved, for now, by  
extensive troubleshooting and replacement of several key components.   
Other shutdown highlights are given below.  There have been a few  
occurrences of NA2 instrument rotator over-current events during the  
latter part of this reporting period, which are still under  

2) Instruments

     o The annual vacuum pumping of the SPIcam and DIS cryo dewars  
was accomplished;

     o The upgrade of echelle spectrograph instrument control  
computer was completed;

     o NIC-FPS was worked on at CU, and several improvements were  
made.  The vacuum and filter-wheel problems were addressed, a NIR  
grism (salvaged by UC from GRIM-I) was installed, and various  
improvements were made to improve noise and stability issues in the  
NIC-FPS detector system.  The instrument is presently undergoing some  
additional engineering work at the site, prior to on-sky re- 
certification tests. [Note added 9/22:  On-sky testing was completed  
9/20, and NIC-FPS was released for science observing last night,  
9/21.  All systems appeared to work well.]

3) Engineering and CIF projects

     o Telescope enclosure drive motors and brake assemblies  

     o Bearing lubrication and azimuth cone "moat" seal annual  
service performed;

     o Enclosure shutter bearings serviced/replaced;

     o Realuminized tertiary and washed primary mirrors;

     o Made substantial progress on installation of new limit  
switches for tertiary mirror;

     o Refurbished and serviced telescope drive boxes and instrument  

     o Released baseline version of TUI;

     o Ordered new deep-depletion device detector for DIS red camera,  
and had one pair of DIS gratings measured at JHU;

     o More design and test work accomplished for "new top-end".

4) Miscellaneous

     o Installed new UPS system in computer room (shared with SDSS-II).


New partners update:

Rene said that a proposal for ARC partner share adjustments (an  
increase in the CU share and induction of UVa into ARC) has been  
agreed to in principle by the relevant parties.  Rene feels that the  
proposed evolution will make for a stronger consortium and better  
opportunities for new and/or improved instrumentation on the telescope.


Futures Committee (and subgroups) update:

Suzanne said that the recent ARC Futures Committee meeting, held in  
Seattle, was a good one.  Most of this group's charge is to make  
plans for ARC and APO post-2008, and the committee is drafting a  
report for distribution to the user community.  Sub-groups of the  
committee were formed to explore interests in exo-planet research,  
near-IR spectroscopy with the 2.5-m, and IFU visible spectroscopy  
with the 2.5-m.  [ACTION:  BruceG agreed to send to the Users  
Committee the compositions of these sub-groups.]  Futures Committee  
discussion about the 3.5-m centered on different operational modes,  
collaborations with other facilities, future instrumentation needs,  
and general science direction for the telescope.


CorMASS in Q4:

Suzanne mentioned that she has given DD time in Q4 to CorMASS in mid- 
October during which John Wilson will re-commission the instrument  
and then take UVa and ARC science observations, mainly in service  
mode.  CorMASS will probably remain at APO for the foreseeable  
future, probably until Triplespec is delivered sometime later next year.


SNe and GRB observing programs:

Suzanne reminded us that Q4 is SNe time for SDSS-II, and follow-up  
spectroscopy with the 3.5-m is scheduled on 25 half-nights during the  
quarter.  We have already started supporting this in Q3, and the big  
impact begins in October.  Suzanne asked the Users Committee members  
for feedback from their 3.5-m users, mainly those not involved in the  
SNe follow-up program.  Scheduling this was challenging, but it  
turned out to be seemingly reasonable.  Let us know if the SNe  
program is impacting other science programs in significant ways.

The GRB ToO program has been relatively quiet in the past weeks.   
Now, we believe that GRB alerts that will pre-empt 3.5-m observing  
could be on the increase, now that NIC-FPS is back and because of a  
recent high-z GRB observation.  We have published the Q2 GRB reports  
at a blind URL.  [ACTION:  BruceG will send this URL to the Users  
Committee to share with their users.]  The program ran well in Q1 and  
Q2, and is being continued through Q4.  The alert process and  
procedures are not yet automated, however.


ARC Board meeting preps:

Suzanne and Rene reminded the committee members that now is time that  
we need you to send us your science highlights (brief text, figures,  
images) for inclusion in the annual report to the Board.  [ACTION:   
Send these to Suzanne and BruceG not later than 1 November, and  
preferably sooner, so that your institution will be fairly  
represented in the report.  Also, send all your 3.5-m-based  
publications and theses during the past twelve months to Rene  
Walterbos, also not later than 1 November.]


Triplespec review:

Suzanne announced that a final design review for the UVa NIR  
Spectrograph, Triplespec, will be held at APO 6-7 December.  Both ARC  
and 'external' reviewers have been engaged to participate in the  
review.  For those interested in the current design of the  
instrument, see 


Actions from last meeting:

Here are the action items and discussion from last June's meeting:

ACTION:  All committee members should identify who their local  
systems administrator (i.e. the person who would be in charge of  
installing TUI and providing information on it to users) is so we can  
contact them.  Please send the name and contact information to Bruce  
Gillespie (gillespi at still open.

ACTION:  NMSU grad student, Pey-Lian Lim, wants to know if there is a  
tutorial for using the echelle with TUI. There is user information  
about TUI in general, but if an instrument-specific tutorial is  
needed, it might be possible that Pey-Lian could help write it, since  
she is a frequent echelle user.  BruceG will talk to Jon Holtzman  
(Pey-Lian's advisor) about this--Status:  Bruce has discussed this  
Jon Holtzman, and a plan is in the works.

ACTION:  Suzanne asked if NAIC will satisfy Nancy [Chanover]'s needs  
for planetary observations, in lieu of certain special filters that  
were not possible to fit into NIC-FPS.  Fred said he thought that  
some of the filters and short-exposure modes in NIC-FPS do fit the  
bill for planetary work, but he agreed to talk to Nancy to be sure-- 
Status:  uncertain.

ACTION:  [Suzanne] will decide by 1 August if the new top end will be  
ready for installation during October bright time--Status:  The new  
top end installation will be scheduled for no sooner than next spring  
or summer.


Next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 17 Oct., at 8:30 AM  
Pacific Time.  Agenda and other materials will be sent to the  
committee members during the preceding week.

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