Fall 2001 News

From the Division Chief
With this inaugural edition of the electronic IRTF NEWS, we begin a biannual update of activities at our facility. Our main purpose is to improve communication with our users.

Old–timers will recognize significant changes in our home page. We hope these changes will provide quicker access to the information you need to prepare your proposals. Please don't hesitate to let us know what you think of these changes.

You may contact our staff using See our contact list. If you are unsure who to contact, email

Fall 2001 Observing
The IRTF fall 2001 telescope schedule is available. Remote observing with NSFCAM and SpeX has been instituted on a trial basis.

Spring 2002 Call for Proposals (Due Date: Monday, 1 October 2001)
Instructions and a list of instruments are available. Note that our observing forms have been revised. Please use the new forms.

Adaptive Optics
Work on the 36–element curvature–based natural guide star AO system is progressing. The lab version of the wavefront sensor package, consisting of deformable mirror, membrane mirror, lenslet array, avalanche photodiodes, and associated electronics, is working, and closed–loop operation is planned for September 2001.

Associated work includes removal of the heat from the Cassegrain focus area, better control of the dome temperature, and control of the primary mirror temperature. This work should lead to a reduction of the seeing from a typical 0.8" seeing to about 0.5". We will also install a new on–axis and off–axis guider.

NSFCAM Upgrade
The project to upgrade NSFCAM with a 1024x1024 1–5 µm array has been funded by the NSF. The $0.75 million received covers a new array controller, new optics, mechanical modifications to the cryostat, and a second wave–front sensor package. All the current filter, CVF, and grism capabilities will be preserved. First–light is expected in 2003.

Facility Instruments
SpeX, CSHELL, and NSFCAM are working normally. About two weeks of observing time with SpeX was lost in April due to an array problem, which has since been fixed. A new version of the Spextool spectral reduction package was released in August. Note that SpeX will be unavailable during February 2002 due to maintenance.

MIRLIN is a 10–µm camera that is available for four months every semester. The MIRLIN team at JPL is fabricating a new mount to improve servicing on IRTF.

TEXES is a 10–µm spectrograph with a resolving power of 105. This instrument is available on a collaborative basis with the instrument team.

Science Highlights
T. Kostiuk et al. made the first direct measurement of wind velocity in the atmosphere of Titan with the Goddard 10 µm heterodyne spectrometer. This instrument was installed at the coudè focus of the IRTF 10 years ago and was recently decommissioned. A new instrument built by the same team is now in use at the Cassegrain focus. Named HIPWAC, it has a spectral resolving power of 106 at 10 µm. This is the highest resolution spectrograph in use at any observatory.

Staff News
Paul Jensen retired in December 2000 after serving as IRTF superintendent and as foreman for 21 years. George Koenig, previously the IRTF foreman, is now superintendent. The latest addition to the IRTF staff is Tim Bond, who replaced Doug Neill as mechanical engineer on 4 September. Tim is from Canada and worked at both the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and at the Carnegie Observatories.