Subject: APO 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 2/27/06

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Thu, 2 Mar 2006 12:59:02 -0700

Message number: 951 (previous: 950, next: 952 up: Index)

                         APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 2/27/06

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Bruce Gillespie, Michael Strauss, Jon  
Holtzman, Remy Indebetouw, Bruce Balick, Russet McMillan, Karl  

Absent: Don York, John Bally, Al Harper

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


User feedback, comments from Institutional representatives:

Princeton (Michael Strauss)--Michael reported that the PU users are  

Colorado--no report.

NMSU (John Holtzman)--One user reported some positive feedback on how  
well her challenging observations of Venus were supported by the site  

Johns Hopkins--no report.

Chicago--no report.

UWashington (Suzanne Hawley)--Suzanne reported that everything is  
going fine, plenty of good thesis data being taken.  Also, a flare- 
star observing run is planned for next month with 5-second time  
resolution using DIS.

Univ. of Virginia (Remy Indebetouw)--Remy said he didn't think UVa  
was using the telescope very much yet.  Suzanne reminded the group  
that UVa is getting 5 to 6 half-nights per quarter of DD time.  Remy  
also wanted to know who to contact about NIC-FPS.  BruceG suggested  
he contact either Stephane Beland at CU (, or  
any of the 3.5-m Observing Specialists.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

BruceG summarized highlights from the report (see below).  Suzanne  
added that we are planning to have an engineering shutdown in May to  
install the new drive boxes.


      3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights,  
1/20/06 through 2/22/06

                                  Bruce Gillespie

0) Overview

Highlights include a continued good run of operability for the  
telescope and instruments, completion of the new drive-box CIF  
project, and progress on the new top-end and DIS-upgrades projects.   
The unusually good weather for this time of year persisted, and was  
largely well used for observing, although we are beginning to have  
concerns about potential fire risks related to the dry conditions.   
We are also beginning to plan the summer engineering shutdowns.

1) Telescope

The 3.5-m telescope was largely well-behaved during the past month.   
During engineering time, the drive servos were tested and tuned to  
try to solve the problem of poor tracking in the parts of the sky  
where azimuth velocity approached zero and reverses (in the NW and NE  
quadrants).  Some improvement was noted, but it is felt that fixing  
the problem will only be possible when we upgrade and replace the  
drive servos, hopefully next year.

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

     o DIS:  Testing of wavelength stability with instrument rotation  
was done, which indicated a roughly 1-Angstrom drift in the spectrum  
at various rotator angles.  Discussion and analysis of this is ongoing.

     o Echelle:  The echelle instrument control computer was upgraded  
without incident.

     o NIC-FPS:  Last-minute problem with dewar vacuum, currently  
under investigation.

3) Engineering and CIF projects

The assembly of the three new drive boxes was completed, and they  
passed their bench testing.  The boxes will be installed on the  
telescope during the summer, or earlier if there is a problem with  
the existing boxes.  Design work continued on the new top end, and  
materials have been received and machining work on some of the parts  
continues.  Maintenance and enhancement of TUI and other software  
systems continued.  The DIS upgrade project (gratings, optics, new  
detector) is underway; parts are being ordered.

4) Miscellaneous

Gabrelle Saurage (the new Observing Specialist) spent a training  
weekend at the telescope.


Short-term data storage policy:

For the record, Suzanne summarized our previous discussion and  
decisions on 3.5-m data storage.  APO will not archive 3.5-m data.   
As has always been our practice, telescope users are obliged to  
download their data to their home institutions as soon as is  
practical.  We do intend to keep the data from the past 6 to 9 months  
on disk at the site.  At the start of every quarter, the data older  
than 6 months will be erased.  If we end up short on disk space, this  
policy may be revised as necessary.

There were no further comments or discussion on this topic.


GRB alert program status:

Suzanne mentioned that the ARC-wide GRB alert program has been  
suspended by mutual agreement with the GRB team.  It is still  
possible for the individual ARC institutions to make GRB follow-up  
observations within their internal scheduled time allocations.


Backup program advisement:

BruceG offered the committee a draft paragraph to be added to the  
automated observer notification message.  After some discussion about  
the wording and intent, BruceG modified the paragraph as follows.  It  
was also suggested that the advisement be added to the proposal form.

Draft text: "There may be occasions where unanticipated observing  
conditions or hardware/software problems prevent you from making your  
primary program observations.  We advise all 3.5-meter telescope  
users that we strongly recommend that you have in reserve at least  
one backup science observing program when you use the telescope,  
preferably one that uses a different instrument from your primary  
program.  If you do not have a backup program and you determine that  
your primary observing program is not achievable, you should consider  
relinquishing the telescope to the observatory staff who will attempt  
to make the best alternative use of the observing time that  
conditions and circumstances allow."


Triplespec white paper:

Suzanne noted that UVa has fulfilled an ARC request to provide a  
short white paper describing the Triplespec NIR spectrograph project,  
written by John Wilson.  The white paper was distributed to the Users  
Committee members prior to the meeting, and Suzanne asked the  
committee members to distribute it to their respective user  
communities for comments.  The committee members are to forward any  
feedback to Suzanne within a week, from which she will report our  
assessment to the ARC Board of Governors.


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:  Completed, see http://

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: In draft.

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:  Completed.

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:  Completed.

[new actions from last month]:

ACTION:  The Users Committee members will need to help disseminate  
the [Futures Committee] draft report to their users.  STATUS:  Report  
not yet available.

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

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.  STATUS:  Open.  We are  
considering a policy where TUI users will need to work remotely from  
computers that have at least the "n-minus-one" versions of operating  
systems and libraries.


Next Users Committee phonecon will be on Tuesday, 4 April, 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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