Subject: APO 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 11/28/05

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Wed, 7 Dec 2005 05:15:25 -0700

Message number: 938 (previous: 937, next: 939 up: Index)

                         APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 11/28/05

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Jill Knapp (for Michael Strauss), Remy  
Indebetouw (for UVa), John Bally, Rene Walterbos, Bruce Balick, Bruce  

Absent: Don York, Jon Holtzman, Karl Glazebrook, Al Harper, Russet  

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


User feedback, comments from Institutional representatives:

Princeton (Jill Knapp, for Michael Strauss)--Jill reported she had  
heard of no feedback from users.

Colorado (John Bally)--John said his users had one issue.  It appears  
that DIS spectra may be out of focus.  Rene added that there is still  
the issue of scattered light in the blue channel.

	ACTION:  Suzanne and BruceG will discuss this in the upcoming weekly  
operations telecon.

NMSU (Rene Walterbos)--Rene reiterated the need to address the DIS  
focus and scattered light issues.

Johns Hopkins--no report given.

Chicago--no report given.

UWashington (Bruce Balick)--BruceB said he had heard no input from  
users.  He said there is anticipation at UW of the forthcoming report  
from the Futures Committee.  Suzanne added that there is engineering  
time next week that will address some of the ongoing engineering issues.

Univ. of Virginia (Remy Indebetouw)--Remy said he hadn't heard any  
user feedback.


Board of Governors meeting:

Rene stated that it was a good meeting; the requested budgets were  
approved, and Ed Turner was elected as the incoming Board  
Chairperson, the Executive Council of the SDSS-II Advisory Council  
was formed, and there was an interim report from the Futures  
Committee.  He also said that he had finished compiling the  
publications/theses list for the 3.5-m, which shows there were more  
papers/theses in 2005 than in 2004.  Suzanne added that she also  
thought it was a successful meeting, and in particular she was  
pleased that the Board approved the UVa buy-in and the share  
adjustments that enable CU to double its share.


Town Meeting summary:

Suzanne announced that all the ARC institutions had been personally  
visited by herself and BruceG during the past year, as part of  
Suzanne's orientation during her first year as 3.5-m Director.  This  
afforded an opportunity for the 3.5-m users to hold direct  
discussions with us on telescope, instrument, and operational  
topics.  One of the common topics heard from users at several  
institutions is the need to improve site user information.  Within  
the manpower limitations we have, user information has been given a  
higher priority.

Suzanne feels these meetings were very productive, and she thanks the  
individuals who participated and/or hosted the visits.  BruceG  
mentioned that we don't intend to do this much traveling in future  
years, but that we would try to find opportunities to return to the  
ARC institutions, perhaps at a rate of ~one per year.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

BruceG summarized highlights from the report (see below).


      3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights,  
10/14 through 11/22/05

                                  Bruce Gillespie

0) Overview

This period saw effort expended in preparations for the annual Board  
of Governors meeting and planning for 2006, plus various work related  
to some instrument and telescope problems.  The unusually good  
weather for this time of year was largely well used for observing.

1) Telescope

In mid-October, it was discovered that the center-post support of the  
tertiary mirror had come unbonded from the glass.  The telescope was  
shut down and the mirror and supports were removed.  There was minor  
damage to the glass on the back surfaces of the mirror, which we were  
fortuitously able to have repaired quickly at the optical shop at the  
White Sands Missile Range.  The support was rebonded to the mirror  
and telescope was brought back in service with only six nights of  
observing time lost.  The cause of the glue failure is unknown, but  
is suspected to be due to age and/or possibly a defective bonding  
joint which failed.

In November, the telescope developed small tracking oscillations that  
were determined to be related to the azimuth direct-drive boxes.   
These were removed and serviced, with the telescope returned to an  
operational state, with minimal down time.  Also, the NA2 rotator  
bearing and mounts were serviced during engineering time, and the  
rotator performance has been improved, although one rotator motor  
overcurrent event was recently observed.  At the moment, the  
telescope is performing nominally.

2) Instruments

     o NIC-FPS:  The vacuum-leak problem in the NIC-FPS dewar  
persists.  CU engineers came to APO, and a new LN2 fill gasket was  
installed which seemed, at first, to solve the problem.  But in  
subsequent use the vacuum-leak problem returned and the instrument  
was taken out of service.  Further testing and repairs are currently  
in progress.

     o CorMASS:  The "flip mirror" became intermittent and UVa staff  
came to APO to effect repairs.  The instrument appears to be working  
normally at this time.

3) Engineering and CIF projects

Some progress was made on assembling the new drive boxes, and on  
analysis and design of the new top-end components.  Work was slowed  
somewhat by manpower limitations due to telescope problems and  
vacation leave.

4) Miscellaneous

4th Observing Specialist position recruitment continued; three  
candidates were interviewed.  A hiring decision is expected shortly.


Triplespec review:

Suzanne announced that we are about to hold a final design review for  
the UVa NIR spectrograph called Triplespec.  The review team is  
headed by Alan Uomoto, and the review will be held at the Sunspot  
Visitor Center 6-7 December.  In addition to APO staff, Steve Smee  
(JHU), Tom O'Brien (OSU), Al Harper (UC), Fred Hearty and Stephane  
Beland (CU), and Craig Loomis (PU) plan to participate.  Remy  
reported that the review preparations are going well; everything is  
just about ready to go.


CorMASS, APOLLO, GRB updates:

BruceG said that CorMASS is at APO in working condition, and we  
expect it to remain available for users (in "attended-service mode")  
for the foreseeable future.  APOLLO had success in getting return  
lunar photons during their November run.  Suzanne reported that the  
GRB alert program has not been implemented recently, largely due to  
NIC-FPS being down because of its vacuum problems.


3.5-m data access, security:

When TUI was launched earlier this year, various firewall problems  
caused numerous problems with data transfers between APO and the ARC  
institutions.  A website transfer system was implemented to get  
around this problem, but this solution inadvertently created a  
situation where all the 3.5-m data could be accessed publicly.  The  
web-based data-transfer system has since been reverted to a more  
secure mechanism, while the ftp protocol remains the most commonly  
used by users anyway.  But this incident has raised some issues, such  
as:  Do we care if our data is available public (probably yes)?  Do  
we care if ARC users have access to data not from their own  
observations?  Should we allow public access to our data (or a  
catalog) after some TBD proprietary period?  After some discussion,  
it was decided that the Users Committee members should poll their  
respective users:

ACTION:  Users Committee members should poll their users to ask if  
the the present data distribution/security systems at APO are  
adequate, and if not, why.

ACTION:  Users Committee members should poll their users to ask if we  
should permanently archive all 3.5-m data, and possibly make it  
available to the public, and if so, why.


Open actions from previous meetings:

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.  STATUS:  will be completed in  

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.  STATUS:  will be completed in December.


Next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 23 January, at 8:30  
AM Pacific Time.  Agenda and other materials will be sent to the  
committee members during the preceding week.

APO APO APO APO APO  Apache Point Observatory 3.5m  APO APO APO
APO  This is message 938 in the apo35-general archive. You can find
APO  the archive on
APO  To join/leave the list, send mail to
APO  To post a message, mail it to