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

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Tue, 18 Oct 2005 19:53:48 -0600

Message number: 929 (previous: 928, next: 930 up: Index)

                         APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 10/17/05

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Michael Strauss, Karl Glazebrook, Bruce  
Gillespie, John Bally, Fred Hearty, Rene Walterbos, John Wilson  
(representing UVa as an observer), Jon Holtzman, Bruce Balick

Absent: Russet McMillan, Don York, Al Harper

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


Suzanne started the meeting by going over the action items from  
previous meetings:

[previous months]

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 - STATUS: completed for  
UWashington, Colorado, NMSU.  Bruce will ask the committee members  
from JHU, Princeton, Chicago, and UVa to provide theirs.

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: not completed, Jon Holtzman will talk to Nancy.

[new actions from last month]

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 - STATUS: no comments were received, so Suzanne  
will declare in an e-mail to apo35general that Remark will not be  
available for use from here on out.

ACTION:  BruceG agreed to send to the Users Committee the  
constituents of these [Futures Committee] sub-groups - STATUS:  
completed, see below.

     1) Planet group: Phil Armitage (CU); Eric Agol (UW); Michael  
Strauss (Princeton); Holland Ford (JHU); Andy Davis (UC); Kurt  
Anderson (NMSU)

     2) NIR spectroscopy:  Mike Strutskie, John Wilson (UVa), and  
Steve Majewski (UVa); Tom Harrison (NMSU); Al Harper (UC); Jill Knapp  
(PU); John Bally (CU); Scott Anderson (UW); Rosie Wyse (JHU)

     3) Multislit spectroscopy: Ed Turner (PU); Bob O'Connell (UVa);  
Rene Walterbos, Jon Holtzman (NMSU); John Stocke (CU)

ACTION:  BruceG will send the GRB URL to the Users Committee to share  
with their users - STATUS: completed.

ACTION:  Send these [2005 science highlights] 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 two years to  
Rene Walterbos, also not later than 1 November - STATUS: not  
completed.  Please submit reports by 1 November at the latest.


User feedback, comments from Institutional representatives:

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

Colorado (John Bally)--John said his recent class expedition to APO  
was a "fabulous visit, although the weather was bad."

NMSU (Jon Holtzman)--Jon reported that there a lot of complaints  
about the recent bad weather.

Johns Hopkins (Karl Glazebrook)--Karl had nothing to report, but  
asked if the various institution's systems administrators could be  
added to the APO website.

ACTION:  Once we collect the the names of the designated  
institutional systems administrators, BruceG will have them listed on  
the APO web pages for reference.

UWashington (Bruce Balick)--BruceB had no issues to report.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

BruceG summarized highlights from the report (see below).  Fred  
Hearty elaborated on NIC-FPS status, and highlighted the upgrades and  
improvements accomplished during the summer shutdown, which included  
fixes to the filter wheels, correlated and Fowler sampling, noise  
reduction (although one source of noise still remains to be tracked  
down and fixed), and the installation of a grism (warm slit) with  
R~100s through the H-band.  There is some order overlap in the  
spectrum, so he recommends using the Y filter to suppress the  
overlap, which gives relatively clean YJH spectral coverage.  The  
dewar vacuum problem was not solved by adding a new ion pump to the  
system, so the adsorbers were put back in the dewar as a stopgap.   
The fill fitting and bellows for the LN2 are suspected as the source  
of the vacuum leak, and further work is underway to fix it.  The  
instrument is down at the moment, and is expected to be back in  
service by the end of this week after new vacuum seals are installed.

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


      3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights, 9/16  
through 10/14/05

                                  Bruce Gillespie

0) Overview

We hosted a large group of undergraduate students from CU, led by  
John Bally.  Also, a group of UW donors visited site with Bruce  
Balick as host.  CorMASS is currently being reintegrated with the  
telescope for its upcoming run.  We had continuing problems with a  
NIC-FPS vacuum leak, resulting in extended trouble-shooting site  
visit by Fred Hearty.  The problem is still unresolved, but the  
instrument has/is been/being used for science for a few nights this  
month.  We finished on-sky engineering tuning of telescope after  
summer shutdown work, and its performance is nominal.  Other  
instruments and systems are working fine.  Weather was unusually wet  
and cloudy for this time of year.  The 4th Observing Specialist  
position recruitment was started.

1) Telescope

Working nominally, only problem left is infrequent instrument rotator  
over-current events, which is being addressed during engineering time  
this coming week.

2) Instruments

     o NIC-FPS:  a serious vacuum leak in the instrument dewar  
developed on the day after the first night of resumption of science  
use of NIC-FPS, taking it out of service.  Fred Hearty returned to  
the site to diagnose and fix the problem, and after a couple of weeks  
of tests, he was not able to find the source of the problem.  But he  
was able to modify the instrument vacuum system to the point it could  
be used for science, which is the state it is in now.  Further tests  
and rework are under planned for the coming week.  The instrument is  
lightly scheduled over the coming weeks.

     o DIS:  The blue-medium grating suffered minor damage during  
shipment to/from JHU, where it had been sent for throughput  
measurements.  An insurance claim was filed with the shipper for the  
replacement cost, which has already been paid.  The grating is seldom  
used, so no serious operational impact is likely.

3) Engineering and CIF projects

A new version of TUI was released, which handles some of the new  
features in NIC-FPS, and also resolved some general guiding issues.   
A plan for completing the new drive-box project was developed, and  
the detailed design of the new top-end project was resumed in  
earnest, having been slowed by manpower being diverted to the summer  
shutdown work.

4) Miscellaneous

4th Observing Specialist position recruitment started.


UVa and CorMASS:

JohnW said that the UVa astronomers and students are excited about  
the prospects of joining ARC, and are planning to have Triplespec at  
the telescope in Oct. '06, and officially joining ARC in Jan. '07.   
CorMASS is back at APO and has been re-commissioned for use this  
quarter and into next year.  There are two scheduled CorMASS runs in  
November, and the instrument will stay in stand-by ready mode for the  
foreseeable future.  Suzanne mentioned that the next quarter  
allotments will mention CorMASS availability.  There was a question  
how CorMASS spectra compare to NIC-FPS grism spectra, and Fred Hearty  
said he'd look at this, but he mentioned that the principal purpose  
of the NIC-FPS grism capability was to get quick NIR spectra of GRBs.


Triplespec review:

Suzanne said that the Triplespec Final Design Review is scheduled to  
take place on 6 - 7 December at APO.  Alan Uomoto (Magellan) has  
agreed to chair the review, with Tom O'Brien (OSU) and Al Harper  
(UChicago) as reviewers, as well as Fred Hearty, Stephane Beland, and  
others from the ARC engineering staff participating.


GRB, APOLLO updates:

Suzanne reported that there have been no GRB alerts observed at APO  
lately, largely because NIC-FPS has been down.  For APOLLO, BruceG  
said that there is an agreement with Tom Murphy to provide support to  
APO that would partially enable the recruitment of the 4th Observing  


Future CIF projects:

For the Futures Committee, and for our planning purposes for the next  
three years, Suzanne and Bruce have assembled a list of current and  
future CIF projects, which is given below.  Suzanne asked the Users  
Committee members to pay particular attention to the list of  
instrumentation proposals from the perspective of their constituents'  
interests.  The list is:

             ARC 3.5m CIF Projects during 2005-2008

1. Projects already started and should be completed prior to June, 2008

   A. Telescope

      new top end (truss and 2ndary motions, safeties)
      new drive boxes
      TUI maintenance/upgrades

   B. Instruments

      NIC-FPS upgrades (not new detector)
      Triplespec (design review, funding for detector)
      DIS upgrades/fixes (JHU trade study, new red detector)

2. Projects not yet started, but under discussion.  Some may
    be completed prior to June, 2008.

   A. Telescope

      drive controllers and servo replacements
      tertiary mount and actuators rebuild
      atmospheric dispersion correction
      new direct drives
      enclosure rotation servo upgrades

   B. Instruments

      SPIcam focal reducer
      Goddard Fabry-Perot upgrades
      UW high speed camera
      NIC-FPS upgrades (new detector)
      Instrument provided by UFlorida


Need for back-up programs:

The group discussed the importance of having it be the responsibility  
of each telescope user to have back-up program(s) when they observe  
at the 3.5-m telescope.  Preferably ones that are TAC-approved and  
using a different instrument, these back-up programs can be executed  
on short notice when an instrument malfunctions or the weather is  
marginal.  The committee members were asked by Suzanne to talk to  
their users about this, and it was decided that reminding users of  
the importance of this on a routine basis would be a good thing to  
do.  [ACTION:  BruceG will write a paragraph about the importance of  
having back-up programs, to be added to the e-mail automated message  
we send observers prior to their runs]


Board of Governors annual meeting preparations:

Rene said that this year's Board meeting should be pretty  
straightforward, and that he is starting to receive publication and  
thesis lists to include in the annual report.  Suzanne also re- 
emphasized the need for science highlights from the respective  
institutions for inclusion in the report.


Next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 28 November, 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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