Subject: 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 9/18/06

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Tue, 26 Sep 2006 10:08:18 -0600

Message number: 989 (previous: 988, next: 990 up: Index)

                         APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 9/18/06

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Bruce Gillespie, Michael Strauss, Remy  
Indebetouw, Scott Anderson, Jon Fulbright, Guy Stringfellow (for John  

Absent: Jon Holtzman, Rene Walterbos, John Bally, Don York, Al Harper

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


User feedback, comments from institutional representatives:

None of the institutional representatives present had any user  
comments or feedback to report.  Suzanne mentioned that there seemed  
to be an increase in the number of new users getting oriented at the  
telescope.  We need to make sure the new users get signed up for the  
apo35general mailer so that they can keep up with news about the  
telescope and instruments.


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

The only question about the report was from Guy Stringfellow, who  
asked when TripleSpec is likely to be delivered to APO.  Remy said  
that the current estimate is 2nd quarter 2007.

The report is given below:


      3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights,  
7/13/06 through 9/15/06

                                  Bruce Gillespie

0) Overview

A near record-breaking amount of rain fell on APO and the surrounding  
areas during the past two months, and little observing was possible.   
Most of the engineering work at the site was focussed on preparations  
for the receipt and installation of the new top end for the  
telescope, which is nearing completion as of this writing.

1) Telescope

The telescope and ancillary systems were well-behaved in July and  
August up through the beginning of the summer shutdown, which began  
near the end of August and is scheduled for completion on 19  
September.  Aside from the new top-end receipt, assembly,  
installation and commissioning (discussed below), shutdown highlights  
included the washing of the primary mirror, realuminizing the 2ndary,  
and various other annual maintenance tasks on the telescope and  

2) Instruments

DIS received its new red-high grating, and throughput tests of the  
telescope + DIS showed that all three of the new gratings are giving  
the expected increases in flux levels.  The remaining DIS-upgrade  
tasks are the replacement of the red chip (the new chip has finally  
been received), replacing the blue prism (to recover UV response),  
and replacing the red chip field flattener (to better match cutoff  
wavelength).  The schedule for these final upgrades is now set for  
the week of 6 November.

CU engineers and staff removed the broken near-IR Fabry-Perot etalon  
from NIC-FPS for further evaluation in Boulder and possible repair.   
Various options for recovering the narrow bandpass imaging  
capabilities for the instrument are under discussion.

The Agile (high-speed) camera has been ordered and we expect it to be  
shipped to UW in the next month or so.

For TripleSpec (UVa NIR spectrograph), a purchase decision is  
expected shortly on the Rockwell detector, the instrument's dewar has  
been delievered, and a trade study is underway to determine how best  
to improve the performance of the NA2 rotator to accommodate the  
higher torque requirements of TripleSpec.

3) Engineering and CIF projects

We are nearing the culmination of the multi-year project to replace  
the top end of the telescope with a new square frame, new vanes and  
cage, and a new mounting and actuator system for the 2ndary mirror.   
As a reminder, these improvements are intended to provide better  
stiffness (anti-jitter), long-term stability (keeping collimation),  
motion control (for better collimation and possibly autofocus), and  
2ndary glass safety than the original system provided.  The project  
has been a joint effort between the engineering group at UWashington  
and the engineering staff at APO.  As of this writing, all components  
have been delivered to APO, assembled, and installed on the  
telescope.  We are now at the point where in-dome collimation tests  
are about to start, and we expect on-sky commissioning to commence by  
this weekend, weather permitting.

4) Miscellaneous

One of the main operations computers, Tycho, is being retired and  
replaced by a Mac Pro system.  This will enable the user scratch disk  
space to be partitioned into institutional allocations.  It will also  
give on-site observers the ability to capture and reduce their data  
in real time, which is very difficult with the current system.


Update on ACCORD System Workshop - Hawley:

NOAO and the private observatory directors (ACCORD) are organizinga  
meeting Nov 16-17 in Scottsdale, Arizona with the title:

The Ground Based Optical/Infrared System
Third Community Workshop on the Ground-Based O/IR System: Building a  
Strategic Plan for Instrumenting Large Telescopes

The announcement is on the NOAO website at: 

Suzanne is attending, and encourages other members of this committee  
and indeed any interested ARC scientists to consider going also.   
There are plans for a session involving the 4-meter class telescopes.  
NSF officials may be in attendance to discuss the report of the
Senior Review committee and its impact on the US O/IR telescopes.


Request for 2006 science highlights - Hawley:

It's time to gather science highlights from the past year (since last  
October) for inclusion in the 3.5-m telescope annual report for the  
ARC Board of Governors. These typically are displayed at the  
beginning of the board meeting as a graphic plus a paragraph of  
explanatory text. We hope to get one or two science highlights from  
each institution, and want the Users Committee representatives from  
each institution to collect these and send them to Bruce and  
Suzanne.  We are planning to send an announcement to apo35general to  
this effect.  We need these by mid-October.

ACTION:  Users Committee representative to gather one or two science  
highlights and send them to Bruce and Suzanne not later than mid- 


ARC-related news (CfP, Futures) - Hawley:

Suzanne reported on the status and plans for the post-2008 proposals  
review, which was sent to the community over the weekend by Ed Turner  
and needn't be repeated here.  She also said that the Futures  
Committee report is nearly completed, and Bruce agreed to send the  
most recent draft of the report to the committee members, after  
getting Don York's consent.


Previous Meetings Action Items report:

[open from previous months]:

ACTION:  Bruce to discuss issues of computer and network security  
with Fritz Stauffer.  STATUS:  Working group (site staff and users)  
formed to frame requirements.  Work will resume once the work on the  
new top end is completed.

[new actions from last month]:

ACTION:  Users Committee members should send Michael  
( the names and e-mail addresses of 3.5-m  
users who are not yet signed up for the apo35general mailer.
STAUS: Open.  Michael will send the list of mailer recipients to the  
committee members for review and editing.


Next meeting:

The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Tuesday (note day  
change), 17 October, at 8:30 AM Pacific Time.  Agenda and other  
materials will be sent to the committee members during the preceding  

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