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Fall 2009 News

Last updated 29 September 2009

Proposal Deadline for Semester 2010A (February 1, 2010 - July 31, 2010) is Thursday, October 1, 2009, 5:00 P.M. 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 instruments. Click here for more information.

All the best, Karan

Karan Hughes Many of you have had some contact with Karan Hughes. She has the distinction of working with all of the IFA and IRTF Directors since 1983 as well as working with many of you over the years. Generally speaking if something was wrong, we went to Karan for help.
The time finally came for her to retire and spend more time with her family and projects she never had time for, including some traveling. We at the IRTF who had the pleasure of working with Karan miss her joyful presence, competence, guiding hand, and storehouse of knowledge.

Telescope Allocation Committee
The current TAC members are Gordon Bjoraker (Goddard), Eilat Glikman (Caltech), Michael S. Kelley (U. of Maryland), Luke Keller (Ithaca College), Mark Buie (SWRI), and Tracy Beck (STSI). This committee consists of three solar system and three non-solar system members. Members who have rotated off are Josh Emery (Univ. of Tennessee) and Russel White (Georgia State University).

Recent Press Releases
See the sidebar for recent new items - a new impact on Jupiter imaged by G. Orton and collaborators and the discovery of a large cloud on Titan and possible cryo-volcano by E. Schaller and collaborators.

Science Highlights and Publications
Our Science Highlights page is updated regularly as we receive the latest highlights from you. These highlights are sent to our funding agencies, NASA and NSF, to keep them abreast of the exciting and useful science obtained at the IRTF. See examples here. Please continue to submit your new publications using the form provided on our website, or send your reprints to William Walters. Please 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 insure future funding of IRTF instruments. For AAS publications, please include the facility keyword and instrument, such as IRTF:SpeX. Look here for more information.

Non-standard Observing Programs
We have a program to observe Titan whenever it is up and SpeX is on the telescope "Titan's Methane Meteorology: Context for Cassini Titan Flybys T63-T66" (PI: E. Schaller). This program is aimed at discovering new cloud features on Titan (see the Press Release). If there is evidence for activity then adaptive optics imaging is obtained at the Gemini or Keck observatories. The observing time is noted on the schedule and there is flexibility on when the observations are taken.

IRTF Spectral Library
Users are encouraged to make use of the spectral library, which is available here. The paper on Cool Stars has been submitted to ApJS and will be posted on the website when accepted for publication. Contact John Rayner for more details.

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

Photomixers Music Videos
In case you have not seen it yet, the up and coming astronomy music video group Photomixers have released four music videos. Lead singer Kelley Fast has a growing group of adoring fans in this largely unclassifiable genre of soft rock, folk music, and high altitude craziness.

Hotel Mauna Kea (Parody)
Getting Lucky at the Cassegrain (Focus)
Born to Heterodyne
1994 (The Jupiter Impact of 2009)

Personnel Spotlight

Eric Warmbier Working alone in the quiet seclusion of his office Eric Warmbier is using a CAD program called Protel to create schematics and to layout resistors, capacitors and various integrated circuits that will one day be turned into the electronic boards that will control the IRTF and its instruments.
Eric is one of our newest staff members, and he graduated with an electrical engineering degree from Michigan State University. Before joining the IRTF in September 2007, Eric spent five years designing electrical systems for weather and GPS satellites at ITT Space Systems Division. Part of the challenge of working at IRTF these past two years is installing and testing newly designed equipment while avoiding downtime of the telescope, says Warmbier, but working as a team member on the new Stargrasp infrared controller is something new for me, which makes it interesting. The new controller will be used in the planned upgrade of the SpeX instrument and in the brand new iSHELL instrument. When he's not building circuits for the IRTF, Eric enjoys attending his seven-year-old son's activities including football, basketball, baseball, golf and the Cub Scouts.

Instrumentation Update

Work on upgrading SpeX with a 2048x208 Hawaii-2RG (H2RG) array and new array control electronics is underway. We have been able to pool the award money for iSHELL and the SpeX upgrade to fund a foundry run at Teledyne. We expect the foundry run to yield two science-quality H2RG spectrograph arrays for iSHELL and SpeX, in addition to a very good engineering-quality H2RG array, which we are planning to use in NSFCAM2. The new array controller will be common to all three instruments. We expect the new array and array controller to be deployed first in NSFCAM2 in 2010 followed by SpeX one year later. Contact John Rayner for more details.

Eric Tollestrup and Charles Lockhart have upgraded MIRSI, and it is now called MIRSI-2. The most obvious change is a new graphical user interface that has the same look and feel as the facility instrument GUIs. In addition, various hardware, firmware, and software upgrades have made MIRSI-2 more reliable and robust. Phase II of the upgrade, which has the goal of improving the sensitivity, avoiding the fix pattern noise, and eliminate various readout artifacts, has begun. Contact Eric Tollestrup for more details.

This camera has been used on a conditional basis because of the high read-noise, which decreases the sensitivity at JHK. After extensive evaluations, we have determined that the current array should be replaced, and a new array has been ordered. In addition, because of obsolete components, a new set of control electronics will be developed. To check the status of this instrument before writing a proposal, contact Eric Tollestrup. NSFCAM2 is currently best suited for observations in the thermal infrared (3-5 microns), since it is background limited and the image quality is excellent, or where a wide field of view of 0.04 arcsec pixels is required.

New Secondary Mirror:
Eric Tollestrup is currently testing two new secondary mirrors. The new mirrors are being figured by Optical Surface Technologies in New Mexico. One of the two mirrors will have additional figuring by Ion Beam Polishing to remove as much of the residual wavefront errors (primarily polishing error in the primary mirror) as is practical. The IRTF will be commissioning this highly corrected new secondary mirror during the Spring 2010 semester.

CSHELL is working normally. The new user GUI is now in regular use. Observing macros written for the old GUI should be tested prior to observing.

Alan Tokunaga has obtained funding through the NSF Major Research Instrumentation program to build a 1-5 micron cross-dispersed spectrograph to replace CSHELL. The spectral resolving power of this instrument will be approximately 70,000. A PDF copy of the proposal can be downloaded here. Contact Alan Tokunaga if you have any questions or comments about the proposal. We welcome input from the community on this new major instrument for the IRTF.


:: Spring 2016 applications awarded observing time.

:: more

:: Spotlight on Saturn's Aurorae

:: Coordinated observations of ozone on Mars by HIPWAC and Mars Express SPICAM

:: Burgasser Very Cool Brown Dwarf

:: 2009 Jupiter Impact: Second Time Around

:: Ten Years of Triton Spectral Monitoring with IRTF/SpeX.

:: Huge cloud discovered on Titan, 13 August 2009. News articles one and two.

:: Jupiter impact of 19 July 2009. News articles one and two.

:: IRTF observations of H3+ in planetary atmospheres

:: The IRTF Spectral Library: Cool Stars (FGKM-SC-LT)

:: Depth of a Strong Jovian Jet From a Planetary-Scale Disturbance

:: more