Subject: 3.5-m Users Committee minutes 10/17/06

From: Bruce Gillespie

Submitted: Wed, 25 Oct 2006 15:56:24 -0600

Message number: 991 (previous: 990, next: 992 up: Index)

                         APO 3.5-m Users Committee Phonecon, 10/17/06

Attending:  Suzanne Hawley, Bruce Gillespie, Michael Strauss, Scott  
Anderson, Jon Fulbright, John Bally, Al Harper, Jon Holtzman

Absent: Rene Walterbos, Russet McMillan, Don York, Remy Indebetouw

Minutes taken by Bruce Gillespie


User feedback, comments from institutional representatives:

Colorado (Bally) - John had no user feedback to report.  He did  
mention that there is a new problem with NIC-FPS Leach controller  
that is affecting performance.  Stephane Beland is going to diagnose  
and recommend a work around until the problem can be fixed. John also  
said that the NIC-FPS Fabry-Perot has been sent to IC Optical for  
evaluation and possible repairs.  CU is bringing a large group of  
students to APO for orientation and training in a couple of weeks.

JHU (Fulbright) - Jon said that his users say things are OK, and  
he'll get us a JHU science highlight for the annual report.

Princeton (Strauss) - Michael said everything is fine, and the PU  
science highlight is on the way.

Chicago (Harper) - Al said that there were no new issues.

NMSU (Holtzman) - Jon mentioned that he had just had a large NMSU  
student group at APO.  He said that during cloudy weather he  
practiced with NIC-FPS and found various performance issues [see  
above] and that its on-line documentation is sparse.  Suzanne  
mentioned that Gabrelle Saurage (the new Obs. Specialist) is working  
on instrumentation web documentation and will have new materials on  
line shortly.  Bruce mentioned that the observatory has not yet  
officially accepted NIC-FPS because of documentation and the problem  
with the Fabry-Perot.

Washington (Anderson) - Scott said he'd heard very positive feedback  
from George Wallerstein about the recent excellent seeing at the  

Virginia (Indebetouw) - no report available


Discussion of telescope/instruments report:

The report is given below; there was no discussion:


      3.5-m Telescope, Instruments, and CIF Projects Highlights,  
9/16/06 through 10/13/06

                                  Bruce Gillespie

0) Overview

With unflinching dedication and long hours of effort by the  
engineering staff and Observing Specialists, the new top end was  
successfully installed and put into service.  Initial on-sky usage  
subjectively suggests that the stiffness and positioning performance  
of the 2ndary mirror is improved, but more testing and a longer time  
baseline will be needed to characterize the improvements  
definitively.  The weather also cooperated as we came out of  
shutdown, which allowed ample on-sky commissioning tests and  
adjustments prior to returning to science observing, on schedule.   
Aside from some unexpected instrument problems, the rest of the  
period has been spent in summer-shutdown recovery and preparing for  
the onset of winter.

1) Telescope

Aside from the new top end being put into service, the telescope  
experienced some "waking-up" troubles coming out of shutdown, most  
notably an altitude drive problem that was ultimately diagnosed to be  
a bad DC motor, which was replaced.  There is still a fair number of  
little clean-up tasks left to do, and we are beginning to collect  
performance data (e.g., focus with temperature, 2ndary transverse- 
motion collimation [new!], wind-induced image jitter, etc.).  One  
observer has reported one-half arcsecond seeing at the echelle, which  
may be a harbinger of good things to come.

2) Instruments

DIS spectrographs were given their seasonal refocussing, and found  
not to need very much adjustment.  DIS engineering time to complete  
the optics and detector upgrades is scheduled for the week of 6 - 10  

The echelle auto-fill LN2 system became non-functional due to a  
faulty sensor, allowing the dewar to warm. This necessitated  
repumping the dewar before recooling.  All seems OK with the system now.

SPIcam has been showing signs of cold-head temperature fluctuating.   
This may be due to problems with its ion pump; diagnosis is underway,  
but the instrument is otherwise usable.

The cabling for the Goddard Fabry-Perot was reworked, and the  
instrument will be checked out by the PI team shortly.

3) Engineering and CIF projects

The following message about the major CIF project this year,  
replacing the
top end of the telescope, was sent to apo35general on 20 Sept,  
repeated here for the record:

"After years of discussion, and nearly two in design and  
construction, we are pleased to announce that the APO 3.5-m telescope  
has a new "top end" consisting of a new square frame, vanes, mirror  
cage and actuators.  The redesign greatly improves the safety of the  
glass, and additionally the new top end has stiffer components and a  
new transverse actuator system for the secondary mirror, both of  
which promise to deliver better image quality.  Also the new axial  
actuators should allow smoother, and backlash free, focussing  
adjustments which we have been waiting for in order to consider  
implementing an autofocus capability on the telescope.

Many people have contributed to the success of this project, which  
was led by Mark Klaene.  We also send our thanks to Larry Carey, Jon  
Davis, Dave Woods, Eric Sandberg, Russell Owen, Fritz Stauffer, Jon  
Brinkmann, Ben Harris, Jim Davenport, Michael Spector, Craig Loomis,  
Russet McMillan, Bill Ketzeback, Gabrelle Saurage, Jack Dembicky,  
Gretchen Van Doren, Mike Evans and the staff at the UW Physics  
Machine Shop for their contributions, large or small, to this fine  

The 3.5-m telescope will return to normal science operation on  
schedule tonight. Along with the work on the new top end, numerous  
other maintenance tasks were performed on the telescope and  
instruments during the sumemr shutdown.  We ask that observers be  
alert and communicate to the Observing Specialists any unusual  
behavior in the telescope or data systems, and also to exercise  
patience as we perform additional necessary engineering tasks in  
coming out of the shutdown.

Suzanne Hawley, APO 3.5m Director
Bruce Gillespie, APO Site Operations Manager"

4) Miscellaneous

The APOLLO program has transitioned into its near-normal operational  
style of short observing runs two or three times a week.  The system  
is being operated by APO staff (led by Russet McMillan).  The APOLLO  
"Leopard" laser was given its "50,000-photon" overhaul by company  

Also, the telescope, instruments, and enclosure were given their  
annual cleanings.


Future of old top end - Hawley:

Suzanne announced that we need to make a decision about what to do  
with the old top end.  If we don't want to use if for a special  
project, e.g., a chopping 2ndary mirror, a prime-focus camera, etc.,  
we should remove it from the current location (on the secondary  
exchange platform), so that we don't have a large, unnecessary  
thermal mass near the telescope.  Moving it from the 2ndary exchange  
platform will require cutting it up, rendering it scrap.  If we're  
not going to use it, we should get rid of it, if only to get rid of  
the unnecessary thermal mass near the telescope.

There was a limited discussion of possibilities, but no clear  
winners.  Suzanne said we'd wait a month, and if no compelling  
suggestions come forward, we'll scrap the old top end.


Request for 2006 science highlights - Hawley:

Suzanne reminded the group that we need one or two science highlights  
from each institution for the annual report to the ARC Board of  
Governors. [ed. note:  as of this writing, we have highlights from  
everyone except the Goddard team that uses the GFP]


Preliminary view of next year's projects - Hawley, Gillespie:

Suzanne listed the projects being planned for next year:

	- Refurbish old drive boxes to use as spares
	- Upgrade NA2 rotator (needed for TripleSpec)
	- replace drive axis controllers (old ones obsolete)
	- as time permits, study autofocus, and new tertiary mount

	- receive and commission TripleSpec
	- receive and commission Agile (high-speed photometer)

Someone asked if TripleSpec and Agile will be TUI-compatible.  The  
answers are yes for TripleSpec, and maybe for Agile if it becomes  
widely used.


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

Suzanne updated the status of the post-2008 Call for Proposals review  
and the Futures Committee work.  The CfP review panel is close to a  
recommendation, which will be sent to the Board hopefully next week.   
The recommendations will be discussed at the annual Board meeting  
next month.  We also expect the Futures Committee report to be  
finalized prior to the Board meeting.


[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.  Fair amount of work has been done, and  
will be reported on at next meeting.  Worth mentioning here that the  
new user computer newton has been installed in the observing room  
replacing tycho.  At the next meeting we will discuss how users can  
access it remotely

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: Michael sent the list of mailer recipients to the committee  
members for review and editing, has received feedback from a couple  
of institutions.

[new actions from last month]:

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


Next meeting:

The next Users Committee phonecon will be on Monday, 20 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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