Fall 2017 News

Last updated 6 September 2017

IRTF Future Directions Workshop
NASA IRTF will host a Future Directions Workshop to seek input from the astronomical community on the future directions of the telescope. The workshop will be held at Biosphere 2 in Tucson on 12-14 February 2018.

Proposal Deadline for Semester 2018A (February 1, 2018 to July 31, 2018) is Monday, October 2, 2017, 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.

Telescope Allocation Committee
The current TAC members are for non-solar system proposals are: Adam Burgasser (UC San Diego), Charlie Conroy (Harvard-CfA), Serena Kim (University of Arizona), and Lisa Prato (Lowell Observatory), and for solar system proposals are: Henry Hsieh (Planetary Science Institute), Silvia Protopapa (University of Maryland), Driss Takir (USGS), and Constantine Tsang (SwRI). This committee consists of four solar system and four non-solar system members. Peter Capak (IPAC) and Nick Moskovitz (Lowell Observatory) rotated off the TAC effective 2018A.

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 Cool Star 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. 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


Adwin Boogert was hired as a new support astronomer. He started work in June. Adwin is an expert in infrared observations of solid and gas phase molecules in molecular clouds. In addition to providing observing support Adwin will become responsible for the development and support of data reduction tools. Imai Namahoe is acting Observatory Manager while a formal recruitment is underway. Sean Lyons will join the IRTF day crew as the junior mechanical technician in October.

Dome Resurfacing Project:
The reflective aluminum foil covering the rotating dome is now about 20 years old and has lost much of its reflectivity, which is required for optimum internal dome temperature control. Falling ice has also damaged the integrity of the surface resulting in water seepage and corrosion. Work to resurface the dome with new aluminum foil started in late August and is expected to take about nine weeks. The telescope will remain operational throughout.

IRTF Data Archive:
Work continues on development of the IRTF Data Archive in collaboration with Caltech’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) which will host the archive. Raw data taken with SpeX beginning Aug. 1, 2016 (the start of the 2016B semester) will become publicly available via the archive starting Feb. 1, 2018, after a proprietary period of 18 months from the date the observations were taken. 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. Further information can be viewed on the IRTF Data Release Policy page.

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. SpeX will be off the telescope during January 2018 for maintenance and for work required to get sub-arrays working 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). MORIS stands for MIT Optical Rapid Imaging System. MORIS was initially made available to IRTF through a grant obtained by Amanda Sickafoose. MORIS can be used simultaneously with SpeX and can also be used as an optical guider for SpeX. MORIS was upgraded during semester 2016B with a newer and more robust Andor camera system. For more information contact Bobby Bus.

iSHELL is a1.1-5.3 micron cross-dispersed immersion grating spectrograph (up to a resolving power of R=75,000) and imager. The short wavelength limit has been lowered to 1.06 micron to enable coverage of the 1.08 micron He I line. Wedged order-sorting filters are being procured to remove slight fringing in the spectra but these will not be available until 2018B. For semester 2018A 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. Development of the data reduction tool for iSHELL has been delayed by some technical problems. These have now been resolved and the Spextool tool package, incorporating both iSHELL and SpeX should be available for download by October 2017. For more information see the instrumentation page of the website or contact John Rayner.

We are delaying the availability of MIRSI by 6 months due to problems in the instrument's upgrade program. We anticipate commissioning no earlier than 2018A and open use in 2018B. MIRSI is being upgraded from being liquid helium cooled to a closed cycle cooler, and will have a simultaneous visible light imaging capability. For further information, please contact Mike Connelley.