This is a short summary of UCO news of interest to the broad UC astronomy community. The press of life has led to a longer time between these newsletters than I would like and this issue is consequently longer. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions, comments or suggestions about any of the contents of this newsletter.
Regards, Mike Bolte, Director, UCO
Instrument Upgrades: There are several projects that have been defined for upgrades at Mt. Hamilton. The Kast and Hamilton spectrometers are getting general tune-ups, upgrades to the motor control systems and optics cleaned and re-coated. New CCD controllers are being completed for all the Mt Hamilton instruments. For the Kast red side we are also planning to replace the current CCD with an LBNL high-resistivity device which will completely eliminate fringing, give significantly better QE longward of 600nm and give a uniform focus for the full spectral range on the red side. Throughput improvements of ~50% have already been realized with Kast. In March 2008, the Reticon detector on the Kast blue side failed. Richard Stover led a quick-response effort to transfer the CCD from the rarely-used Nickel Telescope spectrometer to the Kast dewar and we were back on the sky with only two nights lost. The "new" CCD has smaller QE at all wavelengths. A new, very good, blue-side device was located and is currently in the UCO CCD lab. We are planning to have this new chip characterized and in the Kast by September 2008. Although many people are working to make these upgrades possible, special thanks go to Tony Misch and Graeme Smith for taking the lead in pulling the efforts together.
VILLAGES: In anticipation of the VILLAGES AO experiment at the Nickel Telescope a number of modifications to improve the seeing in that dome and correct problems with the secondary focus mechanism were made. VILLAGES had a very successful first light in November 2007 and three subsequent runs since. This is the first MEMS-based AO system to be used at a telescope. Open-loop control was successfully tested and Strehl >0.1 has been achieved at red wavelengths. These demonstrations have fed directly into the design of the Next Generation AO system at Keck. This continues a long history of utilizing Mt Hamilton facilities and proximity to the UCO labs to prototype instruments and develop pathfinder technologies that are then taken to the Keck Observatory.
Remote Observing at Mt Hamilton: Remote observing with the Nickel 1m telescope is now routine and around 70% of the time the telescope is used in this mode. Overall use of the 1m is up 50% - 70% since we made the remote option available. The Nickel has now been used remotely as part of the curriculum for undergraduate and graduate classes in astronomical techniques. The first paper published with data obtained as part of a class (taught by Geoff Marcy) using the Nickel in remote mode is now on Astro-ph:
We have also had several engineering runs using the 3m remotely. This option will be available for the Kast spectrometer and the Prime Foucs Camera (PFCAM) starting in August 2008. One infrastructure improvement that is necessary in order to be able to run two telescopes remotely on the same night is increased bandwidth to the summit. We currently have the equivalent of 2.7 T1 links, with another T1 to be activated July 18. With the current arrangement, we experience periods of saturation when both telescopes are in use remotely. The longer-term solution under investigation is a microwave link between the main building at Mt Hamilton and a location at NASA Ames. This is in collaboration with the Blue Oak Ranch Reserve at the base of Mt Hamilton (part of the UC Natural Reserve).
Renovation of the 3m Dome Kitchen and Library: As announced earlier this year, after considerable analysis and soul searching, the decision was made to close the diner because of the low and decreasing demand. For this and other reasons we undertook a complete remodel of the kitchen and library in the 3m dome with the intention of making a convenient and pleasant food preparation, eating and meeting place. I appreciate all the feedback, positive and negative, that I received about this decision.
First, the good news. The library renovations are complete and I think it looks great and this is a welcoming and relaxing place. In addition to use by visiting astronomers, we will use this space for the summer visitor program VIP tours and small donor events.
The less-good news is to do with the kitchen remodel. We ran into the same problem that is common with home remodel jobs, especially with older homes (e.g. 1958). The ambitious original plans led to a number of unanticipated upgrade requirements for electrical service, plumbing and ventilation. After some consideration, we scaled back the plans. However, the size of even the more modest plans triggered various UC facilities oversight agencies and redtape. In the first week of June, we made it through the last hoop and the planning and work is underway again. In the meantime, as it became clear that the 3m kitchen renovations were going be delayed, we made certain that a full kitchen was available to observers in the room behind the diner.
New Opportunities for Large Observing Programs at Mt Hamilton: In consultation with the UCOAC, we have defined a new option for applying for 3m time. Large or Synoptic Approved Programs (LSAP) are programs that require 20 or more nights in a semester, or that extend for more than one semester. This new policy is designed to take advantage of our ability to devote significant amounts of 3m nights to address significant problems in astronomy and astrophysics. The guidelines for this new program can be found here:
APF: The APF news is encouraging. The numerous leaks in the dome last winter have been fixed during a visit from the contractor and numerous trips to the mountain by UCO personnel. A big milestone was passed at the end of February when the primary mirror was accepted. It is now in Tucson being integrated in the telescope.
All the spectrometer components are completed, the camera has been assembled and first light for the full spectrometer will occur in Santa Cruz in July.
This project received a very substantial boost when a generous gift was made by Ken and Gloria Levy of Los Gatos. Thanks to Geoff Marcy for his tireless efforts at fundraising and sharing the excitement of this project with many audiences.
Lick Observatory Strategic Planning: A committee composed of faculty from around the UC system and UCO staff from Mt Hamilton and Santa Cruz met three times over the last nine months to discuss possible futures on a 20-year timescale for Lick Observatory. The final report and recommendations have not yet been submitted, but it is clear that the committee unanimously sees a vibrant future for Lick Observatory and that some changes in emphasis are appropriate. In particular, a larger Lick Observatory role for graduate and undergraduate education in UC, an expanded public outreach program in partnership with other Bay area science centers and museums, and changes in the mix of programs we put in the telescopes are all components of the future vision. This does not mean a diminishing of the primary Lick Observatory role of front-rank science, support of UC programs at Keck and as a technology testbed for Keck and TMT instruments.
UCO Coatings facility: The Nickel Telescope secondary and primary mirrors were recoated at the Santa Cruz labs with an experimental coating being developed as part of the TMT effort. The results are remarkable. These are enhanced (improved blue/UV reflectivity), protected silver coatings. The figure shows the reflectivity of the new coating along with that of fresh aluminum and the mirror before being stripped and recoated.
This follows the excellent development done in the coating facility on anti-reflection coatings for transmission optics. The hardened SolGel coatings developed for the Keck 1 cassegrain ADC and spin-coated into 1m optics are also among the best ever created for broad-band applications. Congratulations to the folks who have been making this excellent work possible, led by Drew Phillips and Joe Miller.
MOSFIRE: The MOSFIRE Detailed Design Review was successfully passed in March 2008, and this project is now in the construction/assembly phase. This J,H,K multi-object spectrometer and imager will fill a last major hole in the Keck Observatory capabilities. First light is scheduled for early 2009. This project has two interesting "firsts". It is the first major Keck instrument funded completely from outside resources with funding from TSIP proceeds and a major gift from Gordon and Betty Moore. It is also the first successful multi-campus effort on a Keck instrument with significant components of the design and construction being carried out at Caltech, UCLA and UCSC.
LRIS-R CCD upgrade: The LRIS-R detector/dewar/electronics upgrade project passed Detailed Design Review in March 2008 and fabrication of all the components is underway. All aspects of the upgrade are going well and we are on schedule to commission in February 2009. I am grateful to Connie Rockosi at UCO/UCSC who has very capably stepped in as PI. The upgrade will feature two LBNL high-resistivity CCDs with outstanding QE redward of 550nm. Pictured is the measured QE from one of the science grade devices. My only concern for this project is that the science devices have proven to be somewhat finicky, requiring significant amounts of time to properly tune the operating parameters and presenting a few features not seen in other devices.
Keck Science and Strategic Planning Meetings 2007, 2008: Caltech hosted the annual Keck Science Meeting and Keck Strategic Planning Meeting in September 2007. The attendance for the 2007 meetings was high. The quality of the presentations at the science meetings was uniformly outstanding and as always the breadth of the science presented made this a particularly interesting day. The 2008 Science with Keck meeting will be held September 18 at UC Santa Cruz. The details and registration can be found here: http://www.ucolick.org/kecksci2008
The Science Steering Committee will be holding a scientific strategic planning retreat in Sept 2008. The idea is to consider the positioning of the Keck Observatory in the era of multiple 8- and 10-m telescopes, the TMT, JWST, the LSST and other upcoming astronomy facilities. The UC SSC members, Jean Brodie, Alex Filippenko and Jason Prochaska are setting up a number of opportunities to frame the questions and gather input from the entire UC astronomy community ahead of the Fall meeting.
Next Generation AO: One of the major strategic goals for the Keck Observatory has been to maintain the lead the Keck community has enjoyed in high spatial resolution astronomy. Keck was the first of the 8-10m telescopes with a working AO system and the first with a laser guide star. Scientific productivity based on the Keck Observatory AO system, as measured in published papers, is greater than all the other large telescopes combined. Most semesters, the AO-based instruments are the most oversubscribed at the observatory. We also have in our KecK/UC/Caltech community three of the outstanding technical groups in AO system development in the world.
The Keck Adaptive Optics Working Group, led by Claire Max, held a number of meetings and workshops in 2006 working on science cases to define the key capabilities of the next generation AO system for Keck. Developing a design concept that could provide these capabilities has been accomplished via work at Keck Headquarters, Santa Cruz and Caltech led by an Executive Committee of Peter Wizinowich (Keck Obs), Rich Dekany (Caltech), Don Gavel (UC Santa Cruz) and Claire Max (UC Santa Cruz). This concept has become known as the Next Generation Adaptive Optics (NGAO) system for the Keck Observatory. In April 2008 NGAO underwent a System Design Review with an excellent external committee. The committee was generally very positive. One recommendation of the committee, reflecting a concern raised by the SSC, is that the program be structured in a staged manner to allow benefit to be gained at intermediate steps along the way.
Consistent with the Strategic Plan developed and maintained by the SSC, NGAO will be the major new initiative of the next decade for the Keck Observatory. Although the level of effort and level of funding required to realize this new system is large and sobering, it is in my opinion an appropriately bold, ambitious and forward-looking vision for the Keck Observatory and its world-class user community.
MAGIQ: The guide cameras for several of the Keck instruments are now obsolete. An ambitious program has been underway to develop replacement systems with significantly enhanced capabilities including wavefront sensing, autofocus, better sensitivity, image quality evaluation and photometric conditions monitoring. The first of the new "MAGIQ" guiders have been tested in NIRSPEC and HIRES and will be in routine use this summer.
K1 Laser: For the last few years we have been making steady progress on a relatively low-profile project to install a solid-state laser for AO on K1. This laser will be launched on axis from behind the secondary mirror support reducing elongation, will produce a brighter artificial star and presumably be much lower maintenance (the original dye laser has been remarkably reliable). The system passed PDR in January 2008 and delivery of the laser and implementation of the system is set for late Fall of 2008. After it is commissioned, either OSIRIS or NIRC2 will be moved to K1.
Project Status: The project has continued to make significant progress on all fronts. The effort is large with 33 employees at the project office, nearly 100 fte at institutions in the partnership and ~30 significant contracts out to industry and labs. At the recent SPIE meeting in France, there were 48 papers presented on TMT designs. Major efforts are underway on the telescope structure, enclosure, segment fabrication, segment support, primary-mirror control and phasing system, first-light AO and support facilities.
At the beginning of 2007, AURA withdrew as a partner in the TMT in order to take on the role of managing the US Giant Segmented-Mirror Telescope effort. The Moore Foundation stepped in, continuing their generous support of this project, with an additional $15M grant split between UC and Caltech. This is allowing the completion of the Design Development Phase.
Instruments: The first-light instrument efforts are now underway. WFOS, the wide-field optical multi-object spectrometer, will be led out of Santa Cruz with Rebecca Bernstein as PI and Bruce Bigelow as Project Manager. Chuck Steidel is the Project Scientist for this instrument.
IRIS, the IFU spectrometer to be used behind the TMT AO system will be led out of UCLA with James Larkin as PI, Anna Moore (Caltech) as co-PI and Betsy Barton as the head of the science team. The third instrument is a clone of MOSFIRE, but for the case of TMT to be used behind the AO system. We are waiting for the Keck MOSFIRE to be completed and commissioned before undertaking significant work on the TMT version of MOSFIRE.
Site: In April 2008, the TMT Board downselected from the five potential sites that have been extensively tested for the last three years to two sites: Mauna Kea in the north and Cerro Armazones in Chile in the southern hemisphere. Both are outstanding sites for "astronomical weather". Significant efforts are underway North and South to secure permission to build at either site in order to clear the path to make a final decision on the TMT site. A large fraction of the effort is completing very thorough Environmental Impact Statements for both sites. The equivalent to and EIS has been submitted to the Chilean agencies, the work is underway in Hawaii. It is a major undertaking to survey the potential sites completely, and evaluate the physical, biological, cultural, visual, and other impacts that the TMT would have. One key to access at either site is to carry out this work with wide consultation of the many interested individuals, groups and agencies.
Although we are all aware of the difficulties surrounding further development at Mauna Kea, we are committed to understanding fully the cultural and environmental issues and addressing these concerns in a way that would make TMT welcome in Hawai`i for the positive impacts astronomy at Mauna Kea brings to the Hawaiian communities.
As part of the process, I have had the privilege of visiting Mauna Kea with some of the elders among the Hawaiian cultural practitioners and learning about the importance it plays in the traditional Hawaiian religion.
Various members of the TMT staff and TMT Board have also made a number of visits to Chile to visit the sites there and carry out discussions with national and local officials and interested parties in a parallel effort to that underway in Hawai`i.
Funding and partnerships: In November of 2007, the Moore Foundation announced a $200M pledge to UC and Caltech for TMT and Caltech and UC announced their intentions to raise an additional $50M each in private matching funds toward the capital project. Combined, this is the largest private gift for a science project in history and a tremendous boost for the project. ACURA remains committed to requesting construction and operations funding for ~25% of the project. A major activity of the TMT Board is to complete the partnership in the next 18 months. There are a number of discussions underway.
The project maintains an often-updated WWW site with project news: http://www.tmt.org/
I maintain up-to-date powerpoint slides with TMT status and encourage everyone to include a mention of TMT in your talks and colloquia. Please contact me directly to get the most recent version of the slides.
ISB 375 831/459-2991
UCO/Lick Observatory and The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
UC Santa Cruz, CA 95064, U.S.A.