Spring 2010 News

Last updated 24 February 2010

Proposal Deadline for Semester 2010B (August 1, 2010 - January 31, 2011) is Thursday, April 1, 2010.

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.

Telescope Allocation Committee
The current TAC members are Gordon Bjoraker (Goddard), Michael Gregg (Lawrence Livermore Nat. Lab.), Luke Keller (Ithaca College), Michael Kelley (U. of Maryland), Mark Buie (SWRI), and Tracy Beck (STScI). This committee consists of three solar system and three non-solar system members. The member who rotated off is Eilat Glikman (Caltech).

IRTF Hartley 2 Campaign
We are pleased to announce a comet Hartley 2 observing campaign to be conducted in semester 2010B (Aug. 2010 - Jan. 2011). This comet will reach perihelion in Oct. 2010 and will be visited by the EPOXI spacecraft. Up to two weeks of time will be guaranteed for this campaign. All data obtained will be made public, and observing logs will be requested for archiving. We encourage observing groups to form collaborations to enhance the scientific return from the observations. 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. We require that the acquired data be submitted to the PDS and we will assist observers in doing this.

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

IRTF Headlines
The IRTF is making headlines for its detection of methane in an exoplanet using the SpeX instrument. See the articles below.

Scientific American
Christian Science Monitor
The Guardian

Personnel Spotlight

Maury McOuat Every day of the year the IRTF's Day crew must travel two hours with 4x4 vehicles to the top of Mauna Kea. For the past eight years Maury McOuat has been serving as IRTF's cargo master with the responsibility of driving the facility's flat-bed truck, which carries the telescope's vital supplies and scientific instruments to the 13,803-foot summit.
Over the years McOuat has mastered the art of driving at high altitude through dust, rock-strewn roads and even through snow and ice during the winter months. The first two weeks upon working for IRTF were the hardest McOuat said, but ever since then he has adjusted to the altitude and making the daily trips. Once at the summit McOuat is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the building performing such tasks as changing out the HVAC filters, maintaining an inventory of the facility's compressed gas and cryogen cylinders, and even re-painting the dome when necessary. McOuat says that working on the outside of the building can be harsh with winds gusting up to 40 miles an hour. But Mauna Kea can also be a place of great beauty, McOuat said, with spectacular views of every corner of the island. Prior to working for the IRTF McOuat spent 20 years working in the construction trades. McOuat said that the most challenging aspect of his job is juggling the many tasks of maintaining the facility along with its eight service vehicles. When he is not working at the IRTF, McOuat enjoys spending time with his family, working on his project vehicles and tending to the tangerine, avocado, lychee and tangelo trees on his three-acre orchard in Puna.

Instrumentation Update

Work on upgrading SpeX with a 2048x208 Hawaii-2RG (H2RG) array and new array control electronics continues. We have taken delivery from Teledyne Scientific & Imaging one science grade H2RG detector and one engineering grade H2RG detector has been received for the instrument. Engineering work continues on the new array controller that will be common to three instruments including the SpeX upgrade, iSHELL and NSFCAM2. 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.

Thanks to Charles Lockhart MIRSI is now called MIRSI-2 due to the completed upgrades to the graphical user interface that give it 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. Future upgrades to the sensitivity, avoiding the fix pattern noise, and eliminating various readout artifacts continue. Contact Bobby Bus 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 received. In addition, because of obsolete components, a new set of control electronics is currently being developed. To check the status of this instrument before writing a proposal, contact Bobby Bus. 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 continues to test two new secondary mirrors that have been fabricated for the IRTF. The new mirrors have been 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. Science and engineering grade H2RG infrared detectors have been received from Teledyne Scientific & Imaging and the engineering of the instrument itself is underway. 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.