Subject: APO 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 1/23/06

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Mon, 23 Jan 2006 16:14:03 -0700

Message number: 944 (previous: 943, next: 945 up: Index)

                         APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 1/23/06

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Bruce Gillespie, Michael Strauss, Jon  
Holtzman, John Bally, John Wilson, Bruce Balick, Al Harper, Russet  

Absent: Don York, Karl Glazebrook

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


User feedback, comments from Institutional representatives:

Princeton (Michael Strauss)--Michael said his people are pretty  
happy, no complaints.  He added that the PU users feel that there is  
no problem with the current data security protocols.  Data archiving  
would be useful, but it shouldn't be a high priority for us.

Colorado (John Bally)--John reported that the CU users have no  
concerns about data security, and an archive would be good but it's  
not that important.

NMSU (John Holtzman)--Nothing significant to report.

Johns Hopkins--No report given.

Chicago (Al Harper)--nothing significant to report.

UWashington (Bruce Balick and Suzanne Hawley)--BruceB said he felt  
the UW users were pretty contented.  Suzanne added that a small  
service-observing program has been successfully initiated for/with  
George Wallerstein.

Univ. of Virginia (John Wilson)--John said he nothing to report.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

BruceG summarized highlights from the report (see below).  There was  
no further discussion.


      3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights,  
11/23/05 through 1/19/06

                                  Bruce Gillespie

0) Overview

Highlights include a good run of operability for the telescope and  
instruments, a major design review for the Triplespec NIR  
spectrograph project, and refinements to the 2006 plans for CIF  
projects.  NIC-FPS was put back into service, and the focus and stray  
light problems in DIS were fixed.  The unusually good weather for  
this time of year continued, and was largely well used for observing.

1) Telescope

The 3.5-m telescope had very little in the way of problems during the  
past two months.  Part of one night was lost when a drive amplifier  
blew a transistor, which was repaired quickly the next day.  There  
may be a software workaround to prevent this in the future, which is  
being investigated.

2) The performance of the instruments was nominal, and noteworthy is:

     o NIC-FPS:  The vacuum-leak problem in the NIC-FPS dewar seems  
to have been solved by the CU developers, and the instrument has been  
used for science several times in the period.  Also, the NIC-FPS  
Fabry-Perot filter seems to have been repaired by the vendor, and we  
are planning to test it cold in the instrument sometime in the near  

     o DIS:  The red camera focus was adjusted to good effect, and  
the scattered light in the blue camera was determined to be some kind  
of contamination inside the dewar, which was baked out while vacuum  

3) Engineering and CIF projects

A detailed plan and budget for the 2006 CIF projects was developed.  
More progress was made on assembling the new drive boxes, which  
should be finished next month.  Design work continued on the new top  
end, and materials have been received and machining work on some of  
the parts has begun.  Maintenance and enhancement of TUI and other  
software systems continued.  The JHU proposal to upgrade DIS was  
turned into a work plan for 2006.

4) Miscellaneous

The 4th Observing Specialist position recruitment was completed;  
Gabrelle Saurage, who has telescope operations experience both at HET  
and Keck, has accepted our offer.  She will begin training at APO  
next month, and start work full time in early June.

APOLLO has been running for several partial nights each month, and is  
semi-regularly getting lots of lunar-return photons.


Triplespec review:

Suzanne reminded everyone that UVa is officially joining ARC in a  
year, and their users are in the meantime getting familiarized with  
APO through DD time and helping with CorMASS runs.  Last month, there  
was a final design review at APO for Triplespec, the NIR spectrograph  
UVa is building as their capital buy-in to ARC.  The formal review  
team consisted of Alan Uomoto (chair), Steve Smee (JHU), Tom O'Brien  
(OSU), Craig Loomis (PU), and Al Harper (UC).  The review  
demonstrated that the UVa instrument components were largely coming  
along well, and John Wilson said that since the review, the  
components being built by Cornell and Caltech were building  
momentum.  All in all, the review went well, and an excellent review  
committee report was submitted to UVa.  We expect UVa to respond to  
the reviewers' comments by mid-February.  As part of the UVa/ARC  
agreement, we are purchasing the Rockwell detector using CIF monies;  
the order is being placed now and we should have the chip in ~6 mos.  
or less, with the finished instrument on the telescope in about a  
year. There is an issue with the NA2 rotator and Triplespec (weight  
and balance) that is being addressed by a joint APO/UVa engineering  


Futures Committee:

Suzanne reported that the ARC Futures Committee held a meeting at JHU  
last month, and after 1-1/2 years of work, the group is converging on  
a final report.  Nearly all of the background material has been  
assembled, and a suite of models of how to run the observatory (both  
telescopes) after 2008 is being prepared.  A draft of the report is  
expected to be sent to the Futures Committee members in early  
February, and they will distribute the report to their respective  
constituencies for feedback.  After assessing the community feedback,  
the final report will be submitted to the ARC Board of Governors in  
the Mar/Apr time frame.  Based on the recommendations of the report,  
ARC will probably have just enough time to implement various  
programmatic options to put us on a stable footing for continued  
observatory operations in the post-SDSS-II era.

ACTION:  The Users Committee members will need to help disseminate  
the draft report to their users.


Observing software and data access:

Suzanne said that Remark is now unavailable for remote observing-- 
we've pulled the plug, so to speak.  Russet said that nobody has used  
it remotely since last summer.  BruceG mentioned that Russell Owen  
wants to ask all Mac TUI users to upgrade to OS version 10.4.  There  
was general discussion that brought out that this may be inconvenient  
and/or difficult for some users.

ACTION:  BruceG will ask Russell what the pros and cons are of  
keeping TUI compatible with older versions of operating systems and  

ACTION:  Users Committee members should poll their users to ask if  
there are compelling reasons to keep TUI operable without using the  
latest version of operating systems.

On the data access issue, Suzanne said that we have no budget set  
aside to operate and maintain a data archive for the 3.5-m telescope,  
but we now have enough disk space to allow data to remain intact at  
APO for from 6 to 9 months after taken.  We still recommend that  
people download their data immediately after observing, because the  
on-site storage is not backed up.  The concern over data security was  
briefly discussed, and it was decided that since nearly all the users  
believe their data are secure enough now, if specific concerns about  
proposal and data security are brought to the observatory's  
attention, they can be handled on a case-by-case ad hoc basis.


[open from previous months]:

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 January.

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 January.

[new actions from last month]:

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.  STATUS:  Discussed at January telecon.

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.  STATUS:  Discussed at  
January telecon.

ACTION:  Suzanne and BruceG will discuss this [the DIS red focus  
problem] in the upcoming weekly operations telecon.  STATUS:   
Completed.  DIS cameras were refocussed in December by Russet  
McMillan and Jon Holtzman--much improvement.  We are planning a DIS- 
focus monitoring program for the future, one that routinely  
compensates for seasonal changes.


Extra topic-DIS upgrade report:

Jon Holtzman said that the JHU contract has been issued for new  
gratings and the blue-prism upgrade.  The procurement of the new red  
deep-depletion detector has been delayed by the vendor; we're  
probably looking at summertime installations of all these upgrades.


Next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 27 February, 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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