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Spring 2013 News

Last updated 1 March 2013

Proposal Deadline for Semester 2013B (October 1, 2013 - January 31, 2014) is Monday, April 1, 2013, 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 Ted Kostiuk (Goddard), Andy Rivkin (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab), Kris Sellgren (Ohio State University), Jason Surace (CalTech.), Leslie Young (SWRI-Boulder) and Kevin Covey (Cornell University) This committee consists of three solar system and three non-solar system members. Tommy Greathouse (SWRI-San Antonio) recently rotated off the TAC.

C/2012 S1 (ISON) observing campaign
We encourage proposals to observe comet C/2012 S1 (ISON), a recently discovered Oort Cloud comet with perihelion passage on Nov. 28, 2013. It is expected to become extremely bright with a significant amount of daytime availability while the comet is brightest (see link to additional information below). Approximately 170 hours of observing time will be set aside 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. 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.

Additional information on comet ISON observing can be downloaded at:

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 reminded that the spectral library 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


Instrumentation Update

The IRTF is pleased to announce recent upgrades to NSFCAM2. The instrument now has an additional filter, and tests in the Hilo laboratory have shown very low electronic read noise from its new H2RG infrared array and Astronomical Research Cameras (ARC) array controller. NSFCAM2 has been returned to the telescope for commissioning and will be available for observing in the 2013B semester. For more information on NSFCAM2 please contact Michael Connelley.

The SpeX instrument will available for the 2013B semester. SpeX is a 0.8-5.5 micron medium-resolution spectrograph and imager. Its scheduled upgrade has been pushed back to February 1, 2014 when it will be removed from the telescope to receive a new infrared array and array controller. SpeX is now routinely being used in conjunction with the MORIS instrument acting as a guider. This has allowed for the collection of data on 20th magnitude objects measured in the visible wavelengths. For more information on using SpeX with MORIS contact Bobby Bus. For more information specifically concerning SpeX contact John Rayner.

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 stands for MIT Optical Rapid Imaging System, and it was built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology following on the successes of the POETS occultation systems. MORIS can be used simultaneously with SpeX and can even guide SpeX in place of Guidedog. For more information on this technique contact Bobby Bus.

CSHELL is a 1-5.5 micron high-resolution echelle spectrometer. It uses a 256 x 256 InSb array. The instrument GUI now includes the ability to change the position angle when CSHELL is rotated into a non-standard rotation. Support for the focus collimation tool has also be added. Contact John Rayner for more details.

Due to a failure of the array electronics, MIRSI continues to be unavailable in the 2013B semester. We are considering upgrading the MIRSI electronics, but this work has still not been scheduled. Please watch this site for future updates on the status of MIRSI, or contact the IRTF staff for more information.

Dome and Shutter Upgrades (update):
Three powerful brushless Baldor servo motors have been successfully tested on the dome, and control of the new motors has been integrated into the telescope’s control software (TCS). The next step will entail grinding and smoothing the dome’s rail surface. In addition, the dome’s shutter will be getting an upgrade to its electrical bus. The exposed open bar setup will be replaced by an insulated flexible cable and cable tray system. Both upgrades are scheduled to be completed by the second half of 2013.


:: 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