NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF)
Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii

Spring 2018 News

Last updated 2 March 2018

2018B Call for Proposals

Proposal Deadline for Semester 2018B (August 1, 2018 to January 31, 2019) is Monday, April 2, 2018, 5PM Hawaii Standard time.

Please review the information and use our ONLINE application form

Available instruments are listed here. Remote observing is offered from any location with broadband Internet access for any project that utilizes IRTF facility instruments. Click here for more information.

Comet 46P/Wirtanen Observing Campaign
The apparition of Comet Wirtanen in 2018 represents an excellent opportunity to characterise this potential spacecraft target. The comet will be close to opposition and near perihelion in mid-December 2018. Comet Wirtanen will be very favorably positioned for IRTF observations during 2018B and is predicted to be bright (V~6). A minimum of 150 hours of IRTF observing time will be allocated for this campaign. All data obtained will be made public (within one week), and observing logs will be requested for archiving. We encourage observing groups to form collaborations to enhance the scientific return from the observations. All Comet Wirtanen proposals will be considered part of the observing campaign. When submitting a proposal, please note clearly that the proposal is submitted for the campaign. Groups with visitor instruments can participate in the campaign so long as the data and observing logs are allowed to be public.

For more information on the 2018 apparition and community plans for observing Comet Wirtanen visit the website:

IRTF Future Directions Workshop Update
We held a very successful workshop on the future of IRTF at the Biosphere 2 facility near Tucson on Feb 12-14. Input from the workshop will be used to explore possible future directions, to prepare white papers for input into the upcoming planetary and astrophysics decadal reviews, and to inform plans through and beyond the lease that ends in 2033 for operations of all the Maunakea telescopes. Workshop presentations are viewable here.

IRTF Data Reduction Update
A modified version of Spextool for the reduction of iSHELL spectra was made available by Mike Cushing and Bill Vacca. Please visit the IRTF data reduction pages for download and user instructions, as well as sample data and other useful resources. In the near future we will make tools available to correct for telluric absorption lines using atmospheric models. Please contact Adwin Boogert for requests and questions about the reduction of IRTF data. We welcome software and calibration contributions by users as well.

Telescope Allocation Committee
The current TAC members are Katelyn Allers (Bucknell University), Charlie Conroy (Harvard-CfA), Serena Kim (University of Arizona), Lisa Prato (Lowell Observatory), Silvia Protopapa (University of Maryland), Driss Takir (USGS), Constantine Tsang (SwRI), and Bin Yang (ESO Chile). This committee consists of four solar system and four non-solar system members. Adam Burgasser (UC San Diego) and Henry Hsieh (Planetary Science Institute) rotated off the TAC effective 2018B.

Help Keep Our Publications List Current
Please continue to acknowledge the IRTF in your publications following the instructions shown here. It is important that you include in your papers the name of the instrument used and the citation for the instrument, as this helps to ensure future funding of IRTF instruments.

IRTF Spectral Library
Users are encouraged to make use of the spectral library of FGKM stars, which is available here. Citations for the papers that have been published can be found here. An extended spectral library including non-solar metallicity and hotter stars will be available soon. Contact John Rayner for more details.

SpeX Prism Library
A library of more than 1000 prism spectra of low-mass stars and brown dwarfs is maintained by Adam Burgasser, and is available here.

NEO Spectral Survey
The MIT-IRTF Near-Earth Object spectral survey is underway, and many spectra are publicly available. See the side bar for more information or go to


Imai Namahoe was formally hired as Observatory Manager and a recruitment is underway for the Observatory Supervisor position he vacated. Morgan Bonnet has resigned as IRTF Mechanical Engineer to work on DKIST instrumentation at IfA. However, about fifty percent of Morgan’s time will still be available to IRTF until a replacement is recruited.

Dome Resurfacing Project:
Work on resurfacing the dome is about fifty percent complete but has suffered from significant interruptions due to precipitation and wind. Work was stopped in January and will resume in April when conditions improve. About four weeks of work remain. The telescope will remain operational throughout.

IRTF Data Archive:
The IRTF Data Archive is a collaborative effort between IRTF and Caltech’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC). The Archive webpage and beta version of the user interface are now open to the public via IPAC’s IRSA website. Raw data taken with SpeX beginning Aug. 1, 2016 (the start of the 2016B semester) and for which the time since date of observation has surpassed an 18-month proprietary period are now available for public download. Raw data taken with iSHELL beginning Feb. 1, 2017 will likewise become publicly available through the Archive starting Aug. 1, 2018, after the 18-month proprietary period. We are seeking people who are interested in testing the Archive user interface and providing feedback to Bobby Bus (

On Dec. 1, 2017 we announced that IRTF 'legacy' data for the years 2001 to 2016 would be made available upon request following a proprietary period of 18 months. Requests for data will be accepted beginning Jun. 1, 2019, must be made to IRTF staff, and will be handled as time permits.

Further information can be viewed on the IRTF Data Archive Policy page or by contacting Bobby Bus (

Instrumentation Update

SpeX is a 0.7-5.3 micron medium-resolution spectrograph and imager. The 0.8 micron cut-on dichroic was replaced with a 0.7 micron dichroic during semester 2017A. This will increase the spectral wavelength grasp for optically guided solar system targets. Sub-arrays are working again in the IR guider. For more information see the instrumentation page of the website or contact Mike Connelley.

MORIS is a 512x512 pixel Andor CCD camera mounted at the side-facing, dichroic-fed window of the SpeX cryostat (60"x60" field-of-view). For more information see the instrumentation page of the website or contact Bobby Bus.

iSHELL is a 1.06 – 5.3 micron cross-dispersed echelle spectrograph (up to R=75,000) and imager. Wedged order-sorting filters are being procured to remove slight fringing in the spectra but due to delays in procurement these will not be available until 2019A at the earliest (the vendor is not tax compliant with the IRS). For semester 2018B we are limiting the number of proposals requiring radial velocity precisions less than about 100 m/s since the results from commissioning runs are still being analyzed and the limiting precision is not yet know. Following the discovery that when operated at 80 K the silicon immersion grating is transparent down to 1.05 microns, a new observing mode (J0) has been added to cover the He I line at 1.08 microns. The data reduction tool for iSHELL is now available it is part of the Spextool package. For more information see the instrumentation page of the website or contact John Rayner.

MIRSI is a 5 – 20 micron camera and grism spectrograph. MIRSI was recently upgraded by IR Labs with a closed-cycle cooler to replace its liquid nitrogen and liquid helium cryostat. It is currently being further refurbished by IRTF with a new array controller and an optical channel similar to MORIS's camera MOC with a 60"x60" field-of-view. For 2018B we are offering MIRSI and MOC in shared risk mode for the final two months of 2018B (December 2018 and January 2019). A new chopping secondary mirror should also be available for use with MIRSI. Remote observing will be available with MIRSI and MOC. For more information see the instrumentation page of the website or contact Mike Connelley.