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Spring 2012 News

Last updated 1 March 2012

Proposal Deadline for Semester 2012B (August 1, 2012 - January 31, 2013) is Monday, April 2, 2012, 5PM Hawaii 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.

Telescope Allocation Committee
The current TAC members are Thomas Greathouse (Southwest Research Institute), Kris Sellgren (Ohio State University), Susan Lederer (Johnson Space Center), Andy Rivkin (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab), Jason Surace (CalTech.) and Kevin Luhman (Penn. State Univ.) This committee consists of three solar system and three non-solar system members. Michael Gregg (Lawrence Livermore Nat. Lab.) rotated off this semester.

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. We have websites for refereed and unrefereed publications based on IRTF data: --- Please check these sites and inform William Walters of any missing references. 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 ensure future funding of IRTF instruments. For AAS publications, please include the facility keyword and instrument, such as IRTF:SpeX.

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. Citations for the papers that have been published can be found here. 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

Personnel Spotlight

Charles Lockhart

Charles Lockhart first made his presence known in the IRTF laboratory when he removed all the "caps lock" buttons from every keyboard in the lab, because the "caps lock" key causes havoc when using vi editor. Lockhart originally worked at IRTF as a student hire from 1996 to 1998 when he was studying electrical engineering at UH Manoa. He later returned in 2002 to his current position as IRTF's Embedded Software Engineer. Before working at IRTF Lockhart designed electronics and embedded software for use with satellite testing and control systems and embedded software for high-end broadband network testing equipment.

Lockhart is currently working on the IRTF's array controller, instrumentation and facility systems, and he especially enjoys working on technical solutions to accomplish science directed goals. Outside of work his interests vary from wooden canoe building, martial arts, and participating in Boy Scouts with his three sons. So if you ever need a "caps lock" button, don't ask Charles. He throws them away.

Instrumentation Update

SpeX is a 0.8-5.5 Micron Medium-Resolution Spectrograph and Imager and continues to be the premier facility instrument at the IRTF. Revised plans for the SpeX instrument are for it to be removed from the telescope on October 1, 2013 to undergo scheduled upgrades to its infrared arrays and control electronics. The most recent development is observers have been using SpeX in conjunction with the MORIS instrument acting as a guider. This has allowed for the collection of data on objects that were once too faint for the IRTF to guide on. For more information on this novel approach to using SpeX with MORIS contact Bobby Bus. For more information specifically concerning SpeX contact John Rayner for all the details.

This instrument contains a 1-5.5 micron high-resolution echelle spectrometer (256 x 256 InSb array). IRTF engineer Tony Denault recently modified the instrument's control software to include the ability to change the position angle when CSHELL is rotated into a non-standard rotation. Denault also added support for the focus collimation tool. Contact John Rayner for more details.

The MORIS instrument is a 512x512 pixel Andor CCD camera mounted at the side-facing, dichroic-fed window of the SpeX cryostat (60"x60" field-of-view). MORIS has become the most talked about instrument on the IRTF. MORIS stands for MIT Optical Rapid Imaging System, and it was built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology following on the successes of the POETS instrument. Amada Gulbis put a lot of care into refining its image quality over the course of several semesters, and its GUI has been developed to be familiar to anyone who has used any of the IRTF's facility instruments. MORIS can be used simultaneously with SpeX and can even guide SpeX in place of Guidedog. For more information on this exciting approach to using SpeX with MORIS contact Bobby Bus.

This instrument has developed a level of high read-noise, which decreases the sensitivity at JHK. It will be removed from the telescope on October 1, 2012 for upgrades to its infrared detector and array controller. NSFCAM2 will act as a test platform for the newly designated ARC array controllers that will also be deployed on the SpeX and iShell instruments. Please note: due to unavailability of the instrument in the last quarter of 2012, proposals submitted to use NSFCAM2 will be accepted provided the program can be also accomplished with the SpeX instrument. For more information on NSFCAM2 please contact Michael Connelley.

The MIRSI instrument has experienced significant problems with its control electronics and has been removed from the telescope for evaluation. At this time the IRTF is weighing the options of repairing the instrument and continuing to support it for scientific observations. For more information concerning the MIRSI instrument contact Bobby Bus.

The year 2012 marks a new direction in the fabrication of the iSHELL instrument particularly with respects to its array controller electronics. It has been decided to use a commercially available array controller from Astronomical Research Cameras. This third generation controller has a growing user base and demonstrative ability to meet the engineering requirements of the iSHELL instrument. Fine-tuning the ARC controller to be used at IRTF is already underway at the IRTF's Hilo electronics laboratory. A Preliminary Design Review is scheduled for September 2012. Stay tuned for more developments.

Jumps, and things that go bump in the night:
Staff astronomer Michael Connelley has reduced the data collected from 8 accelerometers positioned on the telescope and concluded that the source of the periodic jumps is the chopping secondary mechanism. These jumps have been happening when the telescope slews in the East-West direction. The next phase of the repair will include resurrecting the hexapod from storage and modifying it for use with our current inventory of secondary mirrors. The hexapod will then be mounted onto the telescope and used for regular observations while the chopping secondary is brought down to the Hilo laboratory and refurbished.

If you have observed on the IRTF recently, you might have experienced our telescope operators disappearing from view to put a come-along winch on the dome. After 30 years of operation the dome has become prone to stalling. The IRTF engineers, day crew, and IFA machine shop head have made a number of improvements and have completed a long-term solution to this problem. Over the next 6 months a new set of brushless Baldor servo motors will be installed and the bottom of the dome rail will be resurfaced. The new motors will generate more torque, and the control electronics will allow the motors to move the dome more precisely.

Mirror Re-aluminizing:
It's been 10 years since the IRTF's primary mirror has been recoated with its reflective aluminum finish. Since then it has held up remarkably well. This is due in large part to the regularly scheduled cleaning by the day crew. In particular, Sammie Pung has been very meticulous with making sure this is done properly. Nevertheless it's finally time for a re-coating, and this will begin in the last week of July 2012 and extend until the first week of August 2012. Since it's likely the current day crew will have retired by the time it needs to be done again, Michael Connelley has taken on the task of documenting every detail of this process so that the years of knowledge and experience that the current day crew has can be passed on to the next generation.


:: 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