Dear colleagues, this is the UCO Newsletter#8 with news from the University of California Observatories covering the period from July 2010 through August 2011. This is just the tip of the iceberg of activities at UCO, Keck and TMT. For additional information these are excellent sources:  (General UCO news) (Keck SSC minutes published quarterly are a great source of information about W.M. Keck Observatory) (Thirty Meter Telescope)

As always, please feel free to contact me if you have corrections, questions or other news items that you think might be of interest to the University of California astronomy community.

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Regards, Mike Bolte

Director, University of California Observatories


As this newsletter goes public, the wonderful news came that Saul Perlmutter (UCB/LBNL) has won the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics! The prize was awarded for the discovery of the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe by the “Supernova Cosmology Project” team that Saul leads. He shares the prize with Brian Schmidt (ANU) and Adam Riess (STScI) who were leaders of a second team carrying out an independent program.

The result is based on measurements of type 1a supernovae at redshifts beyond 0.4 where there is increasing leverage for measuring the expansion rate history of the Universe. Key to the results of both teams were spectroscopic observations of the distant supernovae using LRIS on the Keck telescopes.  The initial results cited in the Nobel Prize materials were published in 1998/1999. In the decade since the original announcements, observations with the Keck telescopes been the basis for solidifying the result. Additionally, Lick Observatory telescopes have played a large role in bolstering our understanding of nearby SN1a explosions and making ever-better refinements to the calibration of SN1a luminosities. In particular the programs led by Alex Filippenko (UCB) of the discovery and characterization of nearby SN using the Katzman Automated Imaging Telescope and Lick Observatory 3m + Kast spectrometer have built a very solid foundation for the distant SN work. Filippenko has the distinction of being the only scientist on the author list of both of the papers cited by the Nobel committee. There is another UC thread in this story. When the 1998 paper was published, Riess, the lead author, was a Miller Fellow at UCB.

Congratulations to Saul and his team, and to Brian, Adam and their collaborators!! 

The UCB press release linked here gives more details.

Tommaso Treu (UCSB) is the AAS Newton Lacy Pierce Prize recipient for 2010. He gave the prize lecture at the 2011 Winter Meeting in Seattle titled “Dark Matter and Black Holes Over Cosmic Time”. The Pierce Prize is awarded for outstanding achievement in observational astronomy. This was the second year in a row that the award went to a UC astronomer.  Josh Bloom (UCB) was the 2009 awardee.

Steven Furlanetto  (UCLA) is the AAS 2011 Helen B. Warner Prize winner. The Warner Prize is awarded  for a significant contribution to theoretical or observational astronomy in the recent five years. Steven’s citation is 

“for his theoretical work in the field of high-redshift cosmology, including groundbreaking work on the epoch of reionization and its observational signatures, opening up new pathways to the study of reionization in the redshifted 21-cm hydrogen line.”

Elliot Quataert (UCB) was the 2008 recipient.

Marc Davis (UCB) is one of the recipients of the 2011 Gruber Cosmology Prize. The Gruber Prize Program honors contemporary individuals in the fields of Cosmology, Genetics, Neuroscience, Justice and Women’s Rights, whose groundbreaking work provides new models that inspire and enable fundamental shifts in knowledge and culture. The 2011 citation reads: 

“The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation proudly presents the 2011 Cosmology Prize to Marc Davis, George Efstathiou, Carlos Frenk and Simon White for their pioneering use of numerical simulations to model and interpret the large-scale distribution of matter in the Universe.”  

Saul Perlmutter was one of the 2007 Gruber Prize winners. (Photo credit: Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation)

Sandy Faber (UCSC) is the 2011 recipient of the highest award of the AAS, the Russell Prize, awarded for “a lifetime of eminence in astronomical research”. Sandy’s award citation is:

 "for a lifetime of seminal contributions to galaxy evolution and dynamics, the distribution of the mysterious 'dark matter' in the universe, for leading the construction of astronomical instrumentation, and for mentoring future leading astronomers."

Previous UC recipients of the Russell Prize in the last three decades are Charles Townes (1998), Bob Kraft (1995), Don Osterbrock (1991), Albert Whitford (1986) and Margaret Burbidge (1984).

Bob Kibrick (UCSC) was awarded the first Jerry and Jocelyn Nelson Prize for Innovation and Excellence. The award recognizes “a member of the UCO community who has demonstrated outstanding creativity, deep technical knowledge and great persistence in creating innovative new instrumentation for astronomy or in creating new tools to enable advances in astronomical research.”
Congratulations to Bob and a very big “thank you” to Jerry and Jocelyn Nelson for establishing this prize.


UCO Reviews
UC-ATF: There have been two activities underway in the last five months that have a bearing on the future of UCO. The University of California Astronomy Task Force (UC-ATF) was a UC-wide internal committee charged by the UC Office of Research and Graduate Studies with surveying the UC astronomy and astrophysics community and identifying systemwide science and facilities priorities. This committee was very energetically and capably chaired by Geoff Marcy (UCB). The committee carried out and analyzed the results of a systemwide poll of astronomers and had several meetings including two public townhall meetings. Activities were concluded in June 2011. The top level recommendations for investments in the future of UC astronomy and astrophysics were (in order of priority):

Ensure the long-term success of UC leadership within the TMT project 
2) Keep the Keck Observatory at the cutting edge of 10-m class telescopes and maintain UC’s current share of the telescopes
3) Strengthen support for development and construction of  instruments and adaptive optics
4) Continue funding Lick Observatory at its current levels, while exploring new funding models

I appreciate the hard and thoughtful work carried out by this committee. The outcomes are a strong endorsement of the UCO activities of the last decade and the UCO plans for the coming decade.

The committee membership is listed here: Geoff Marcy (Chair, UCB), Josh Bloom (UCB), James Bullock (UCI), Steve Furlanetto (UCLA), Andrea Ghez (UCLA), Claire Max (UCSC), Ian Mclean (UCLA), Bahram Mobasher( UCR), Eliot Quataert (UCB), Connie Rockosi (UCSC), David Schlegel (LBNL), Tommaso Treu (UCSB), Tony Tyson (UCD), David Tytler (UCSD).

UCO External Review Committee: A second committee carried out a more traditional visiting committee review of UCO. This was an excellent group of astronomers with a wealth of experience in running observatories and working at the forefront of A&A research. The review was held over three days in August 2011. The committee will submitt its report in early October. I look forward to receiving it. We were very fortunate to have such a distinguished and knowledgeable group spend their time evaluating UCO.

UCO Visiting Committee. Rob Kennicut (Chair), Charles Alcott, Rolf Kudritzki, Annelia Sargent, John Carlstrom, Roger Blandford, Sidney Wolff, Dan Simmons, Bob Williams,  and  Marcia Rieke.

The Gemini Planet Imager components have arrived from all over North America since Spring 2011. One of the major UCO Laboratory for Adaptive Optics projects this year is the assembly of the full system (AO + instruments + calibration module) and end-to-end testing of the system. There has been a delay in getting the spectrometer because of problems with the coolers, however all the other components including the high-performance AO system are in the UCO highbay and have been run extensively.

GPI Principal Investigator Bruce Macintosh

GPI in the highbay clean room in Santa Cruz

Organizational changes at UCO
I am very pleased to announce two appointments within UCO:

Connie Rockosi has agreed to be the Associate Director for Instrumentation at UCO. This is a position that has not been filled since Joe Miller last had the title during Bob Kraft’s tenure as UCO Director. Connie has been carrying out many of the activities already in recent years and her role is now formalized and properly recognized. She will oversee all activities in the UCO-Santa Cruz instrumentation labs.

Xavier Prochaska became the UCO Associate Director for Lick Observatory starting September 1, 2011. For the past several years, Burt Jones has very capably filled that position. In this role, X will oversee the scientific aspects of Lick Observatory: policy, instrumentation, setting priorities for new capabilities and improvements, and interfacing between UCO Santa Cruz/UCLA instrumentation labs and the mountain.  Many thanks to Burt Jones for his many years of excellent service. Thanks to Xavier for stepping into this important role!

Welcome Aboard
In August 2011 Dale Sandford joined the UCO staff as a detector/detector systems specialist replacing Richard Stover who retired in February 2011. Dale was most recently at the University of Chicago. Mechanical engineer Chris Ratliff also joined the staff over the summer and will be the lead on the mechanical design for the Shane AO system.

Chris Lockwood
On February 4, 2011, Chris Lockwood, a talented and popular engineer at UCO, died of a heart attack while biking to campus. Most recently, Chris was the lead engineer for the Shane AO project and the LRIS-R detector/dewar/focus mechanism upgrade. He was a particularly well-liked member of the UCO community. His presence and skills are greatly missed.

Chris Lockwood in the UCO lab with the LRIS-R dewar

Kraftfest 2011
Over three days in July we had a small meeting in Santa Cruz on the topics of stellar abundances in the Galactic halo, globular clusters and Local Group galaxies. Bob Kraft’s 55 years of pioneering and often seminal work in these areas was one of the themes of the conference. It was an excellent event with participants traveling from all over the world to attend and honor Bob. 

Bob Kraft, George Preston and George Wallerstein

The list of talks is available at the website listed below and the presentations from the meeting will be posted at this site soon. Thanks to Sara Lucatello, Graeme Smith, Paula Towle and Rob Gargett for doing all the heavy lifting on the organizing of the conference.

Currently, the IR Lab has three large projects nearing completion. MOSFIRE (PI Ian McLean), the very ambitious multi-object near-IR spectrometer, is discussed below in the section on the Keck Observatory.

GPI Integral Field Spectrometer: James Larkin is the PI of the IFS which takes more than 40,000 spectra simultaneously over a square field of view and reassembles them into 18 images at different wavelengths. Simultaneity of the images is critical because that freezes all of the optical effects from the atmosphere and the adaptive optics system. Using the variation in behavior between optical artifacts (speckles) and true planets produces another factor of 10—100 in contrast improvement very close to the stellar image itself.  

James Larkin and the GPI IFS

After resolving some remaining issues with vibration in the cryocoolers, the UCLA IFS is ready for shipping to Santa Cruz to be integrated into GPI.

SOFIA FLITECAM: FLITECAM is a 1-5 micron camera and grism spectrometer for NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA); Ian McLean is PI for that project. FLITECAM was previously used successfully on the 3-m Shane telescope at Lick Observatory. FLITECAM was delivered to NASA in July 2011 and first light in flight is anticipated before the end of 2011.

Going forward, the TMT first-light instrument to work behind AO, IRIS, is being led out of the IR Lab with James Larkin as PI. There are a number of Keck Observatory related upgrades for  NIRC2, OSIRIS and NIRSPEC that would be led out of the IR Lab and I hope that we can get some traction and outside funding for a major new IR imager/spectrometer for the Lick Observatory 3m.

The links below take you to sites with additional information.

At the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011 we formally signed off  on the APF enclosure and telescope. The APF spectrometer was shipped to Mt Hamilton in January and in late spring was operational on the telescope. There have been a number of small problems with the facility that have slowed the work to completely commission the telescope and spectrometer. As of the time of this writing, the shakeout is nearing completion and we are very close to science operations!

Steve Vogt at the APF dome (photo credit John Russo/San Francisco Chronicle/Polaris)

Many of our folks in the labs and at Mt Hamilton have been called on to debug, repair and improve upon several of the subsystems at the APF. As always, I am greatly impressed by the ingenuity, resourcefulness and willingness to go far beyond the call of duty exhibited by the UCO staff.

Shane AO
The work continues on Shane AO with much of the bench design completed and excellent progress made on the detector and mechanical upgrades of the IRCAL camera. The new fiber laser is scheduled to be delivered to the Laboratory for Adaptive Optics (LAO) before December 2011 and a contract is being completed with the IR Lab at UCLA to build the software package for the new detector system in IRCAL. This work is being carried out in Santa Cruz.

The Hawaii 2RG detector in the lab

The improvements this new system will bring to AO with the 3m are simply revolutionary with an order of magnitude improvements in sensitivity for diffraction-limited observations and significant improvements in operational efficiency. This is one of the major activities being carried out at the LAO.

Lick Observatory Historical Collections Project
Tony Misch, with support from a number of volunteers, has been working to research the origins and use of the instruments in storage at Mt Hamilton. He has also been inventorying logbook entries and astronomical plates of particular scientific importance. There are some quite surprising objects showing up in Mt Hamilton storage rooms including components of the portable telescopes that were used on Lick Observatory solar eclipse expeditions. The data collected with these instruments was key in the verification of Einstein’s General Relativity. Tony’s work is being beautifully documented at this website:

We are actively looking for support for this effort to reconstruct and preserve this important Lick Observatory history. Please contact me if anyone has some leads on  potential sources for support.

New exhibits at Mt Hamilton
Thanks in large part to a grant from NASA via Geoff Marcy, a number of large-screen displays were purchased and installed in the 36-inch Great Refractor hallway in the Main Building. With assistance from many, including Rem Stone, Burt Jones and Ellie Gates, excellent content has been  developed and installed and these displays run whenever the Visitor Center is open to the public. They look fantastic. This is an opportunity to share highlights from the astronomy programs around the UC system and we will be asking each department for campus specific content.

Burt Jones in front of two of the new displays

2011 Observational Astronomy Graduate Student Workshop
The 2011 Observational Astronomy Workshop for incoming UC A&A graduate students was held from September 30 - October 3. This workshop provides an introduction to the telescopes and instruments at Mt Hamilton, observational techniques, and astronomical data reduction. This is the fourth year we have run this very popular program. Thanks to Ellie Gates, Bryant Grigsby and Paul Lynam for once again putting together an excellent program and running the workshop. Travel for students attending the workshop was supported by the Davidson Fund.

The 2011 attendees of the Lick Observatory Observational Astronomy Workshop along with the workshop leaders.

New Personnel at Mt Hamilton
We have several new staff members at Mt Hamilton who have joined us at various times over the past year. Paul Lynam came from ESO and is our new Support Astronomer. We have two new telescope technicians, Pavl Zachary and Eric Kovaks and two new members of the physical plant support team, Dave Perrin and Greg Sulger. 

LRIS-R rescue mission
Not long after the new LRIS-R dewar, detector system and new focus mechanism were delivered to the Keck Observatory, the new detectors started to show degraded performance. An extended joint effort between the Santa Cruz labs and WMKO staff to diagnose and correct the problems slowed the degradation, but it became clear that the devices would need to be replaced. Natalie Roe at LBNL kindly offered up some additional high-resistivity devices and we began a crash program in Santa Cruz to characterize and optimize these devices, and to get a second dewar prepared with the new devices mounted. With the spectre of canceled LRIS-R runs hanging over everyone’s head the work was completed and the dewar swapped out on a very tight schedule. The new devices are better performers than the first two and after ten months have shown no signs of changing performance. This was only made possible by the enormous effort by a large group in the labs working under pressure and long hours for several weeks.

Everyone is very excited by the prospects of MOSFIRE coming online. In April 2011, the project had its Preship Review and passed on almost all fronts. Unfortunately, one of the problems noted with the large bearing that allows the instrument to rotate turned out to be quite challenging to correct. After extensive investigation, it was concluded that a new bearing needed to be ordered and manufactured. The order has been placed and the bearing is expected to be delivered in late Fall. It should be straightforward to make the swap of the new for the old and test it. Delivery and commissioning will take place in 2012A.

Keck 1 Deployable Tertiary
In Santa Cruz we have received funding to continue the conceptual design work on a deployable tertiary for the K1 Telescope. This will replace the current tertiary and tower with a smaller tertiary mirror that can be stowed out of the beam when a cassegrain instrument is in use.  The motivation is to be able to rapidly switch among any of three instruments on K1: LRIS or MOSFIRE at cassegrain, HIRES on the right Nasmyth platform and the soon-to-be-deployed LGSAO system  and OSIRIS on the left Nasmyth platform. This would improve significantly the Keck Observatory target of opportunity and cadence observing capabilities. Xavier Prochaska is the PI on this project.

Keck Cosmic Web Imager
KCWI is an optical integral-field spectrometer for the Keck Observatory that has been funded through preliminary design. The PI for the project is Chris Martin at Caltech. At the labs in Santa Cruz we will be responsible for the camera designs (there is a red and blue side) and fabrication, and the coatings for the instrument. This project has received $2.5M via TSIP to date and passed a Preliminary Design Review in June 2011. At this review the total cost of the two-arm version of the instrument was estimated at $8.7M including contingency. At the July 2011 Keck SSC meeting, the SSC recommended a phased approach with the blue arm deployed initially and a cost cap. The KCWI team has since put together a credible phased approach and this project will be the subject of a 2012 TSIP proposal.

Keck Observatory productivity
The Keck telescopes were completed in 1993 and 1996 and at that time were very significantly more capable than any other groundbased telescope. However, in the last decade ten 8m-class telescopes have been built and are in use to 

Papers per telescope

carry out forefront science.  Certainly some of these facilities are much better funded for operations and development of new instrumentation than is the Keck Observatory. Although it can be difficult to evaluate the scientific productivity of an observatory, one 
simple metric is straightforward to determine and 

Total Impact is the number of papers combined with the number of citations normalized to the average number of AJ citations for papers published in a given year

easy to understand: the number of journal publications based on data from a particular telescope. Dennis Crabtree of HIA in Victoria compiles data of this sort. Based on his most recent compilations, Keck continues to lead in productivity among the large telescopes worldwide. This is a great tribute to the users of the Keck telescopes and the staff in Hawaii.

Other activities at WMKO
There are many additional activities underway at WMKO. The K1 laser had first light in late Spring 2011 and is on track for commissioning with OSIRIS in 2012A. K2 laser center launch upgrade is nearing completion, and K2 IR tip-tilt system remains on track for 2013A first light.  These are funded through a combination of NSF MRI, ATI programs and private funding. 

The Keck SSC selected two projects for concept development funding: a DEIMOS focal plane upgrade and a small-field, fiber-fed, high-throughput,  radial velocity precision and stability optimized spectrometer current dubbed SHREK.

Keck Interferometer
NASA has announced that funding for operations of the Keck interferometer will cease in September 2012. Semester 2012A is therefore the last for which this capability will be available.

2011 Science with the Keck Observatory meeting
Over September 23/24, Caltech hosted the 2011 Keck Observatory Science meeting. As always, the breadth of cutting edge science carried out using the Keck telescopes and the quality of the talks made for an exceptionally interesting 

WMKO Director Taft Armandroff kicks off the 2011 Science with the Keck Observatory meeting

meeting. This year the extended Keck community was in evidence with attendees from Yale, Swinburne, Subaru and the “TSIP” community in the audience and giving talks. Also notable were two science talks from Keck Observatory staff. Thanks to everyone who did the work behind the scenes to make this meeting a success, in particular John Johnson (CIT) who chaired the organizing committee.

As always, there is activity on many fronts in the TMT project. Technical work continues with good progress on segment fabrication, sensors and actuators, segment support structure, control systems, support building and dome, telescope structure and many other areas. 

An important milestone was reached at Tinsley over the summer when the polishing requirements were met for the most difficult “Type 82” segment has the largest asphericity.  In addition to the work at Tinsley, segment polishing activities are now underway in China, Japan and India. 

Type 82 roundel polished to spec at Tinsley. Color coding: gold lab coats are TMT, white lab coats Tinsley

TMT Cost Review: The project underwent a very extensive cost review over four days in January 2011. Experts on large science projects from all over the world were part of the review panel. The costing methodologies, contingency determination and costs of all the TMT subsystems was evaluated in detail. The panel made a number of recommendations, but overall we got a strong endorsement of the project processes and total cost estimate. 

Partnership: The major activity for the TMT Board remains completing partnership. This process involves developing the principles of the partnership with associated legal agreements, agreeing to a workshare distribution of major development and construction tasks split among the partners, qualifying institutions and industry in the partner countries to carry out work packages and preparing construction proposals.  The level of TMT activity in each of the partner countries has ramped up considerably in the last twelve months. An important opportunity for solidifying the partnership at high levels is upcoming with the 2011 Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Honolulu which will be attended by heads of state from most of the participating countries. A reception during the meeting hosted by Governor Abercombie during the meeting will highlight astronomy at Mauna Kea including the TMT.

Hawaii: In February 2011, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources granted the permit for TMT to carry out construction on Mauna Kea. In the same meeting they granted a contested case administrative hearing. This hearing is an opportunity for individuals who are affected by the decision to issue a permit to bring to the attention of a hearing officer additional aspects of the case that they feel had not been fully considered. Six individuals were granted standing in the contested case and several days of testimony were carried out in August and September 2011. The hearing was concluded on September 30. The hearing officer will make a recommendation to the Land Board on whether to alter their original decision to grant the permit in the next few months.

Operations models and costs: I have been directly involved in a year-long process to settle on an operating model for the TMT. With Peter Gray of the project office doing most of the hard work, we have consulted with a TMT Operations Discussion Group,  the TMT SAC and most of the major observatories to build a bottom-up model for TMT operations. Although the model started via analogy and comparison with that at the Keck Observatory, we have now incorporated lessons learned from the Keck model, made some detailed adjustments for the physical plant differences between the Keck and TMT and added a number of science support services to recognize the diverse partnership and national facilities aspects of the TMT. We will be describing the model and associated costs to the TMT Board on the October 2011 meeting and anticipate endorsement of the plan.