Spring 2006 News

Proposal Deadline for August 1, 2006 – January 31, 2007
Fall 2006 semester observing proposals are due on Monday, April 3, 2006. See the information and application form in the sidebar under “Applications.” The most current application form, last revised February 2006, must be used. A summary of instruments can be found at The TAC will review telescope applications on May 22, and time awards will be announced before July 1, 2006. Remote observing from any location will be supported.

Telescope Allocation Committee
Martha Hanner (U. Massachusetts, Amherst) and Michael Brotherton (U. Wyoming) have rotated off the TAC after serving from spring 2004 through fall 2005. New members, Yan Fernandez (U. Central Florida), and Dean Hines (Space Science Inst.), will serve from spring 2006 through fall 2007. See full membership here.

9P/Tempel 1 Observations in Support of the Deep Impact Mission
The Deep Impact mission designed to probe the interior of a comet by crashing a 370 kg copper mass into the nucleus of comet Tempel 1 on July 3, 2005, (Hawaii time) was a success. An observing campaign at the IRTF was implemented using SpeX, MIRSI, CSHELL and visitor instruments HIFOGS and BASS. During the night of the impact, SpeX was used to obtain high time resolution spectroscopy at 1–2.5 microns. This provided unique data on color changes right after the impact. We plan to make all of the data public within about 6 months. Questions about the archive should be sent to Bobby Bus (

Instrumentation Update
NSFCAM2, with a 2048x2048 array, is presently being readied for commissioning. We are preparing for the first commissioning run in March. For more information, please see the NSFCAM web page or contact Eric Tollestrup (

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. Please keep submitting your recent publications using the form provided on our web site, or send them to Ms. Karan Hughes ( Please acknowledge the IRTF in your publications following the information on our acknowledgement page and include in your papers the name of the instrument used, as this helps to insure future funding of IRTF instruments.

Note that the MIT–IRTF Near–Earth Object spectral survey is underway with many spectra that are publicly available. See the side bar for more information or go to

New Secondary Mirror
The initial phase in replacing the IRTF secondary mirrors with a new corrective, scatter compensating mirror are currently underway. We are designing a prime focus instrument called PhCS (pronounced 'fix'), or 'Phase Corrective Secondary', that will measure and characterize the optical properties of the primary mirror. PhCS will have a prime focus camera, a knife–edge tester, a Hartmann wavefront sensor, and a guide camera. The goal of this NSF funded project is to correct the major static aberrations (mostly spherical aberration) and reduce the scattering due to higher order aberrations (primarily the zonal rings and support–pad print–through) that are in the primary mirror by applying an appropriate phase compensating surface on secondary mirror. Currently there is approximately 0.3 microns rms of spherical aberration in the IRTF, which caused a significant degradation to the 36–element AO system. Correcting these aberrations will not only benefit the AO system, but will significantly improve the image quality for nearly all observations. The characterization of the the primary mirror will occur this fiscal year, while the corrective mirror is planned to be manufactured in FY2007, for delivery to the IRTF in the Spring of 2007. This project is part of a three–pronged program underway at the IRTF to improve the image quality of the telescope – this includes improving the optics, controlling dome seeing, and reducing the aberrations caused by dynamic aberrations. The dome seeing has been improving by controlling the dome thermal environment and cooling the primary mirror during the day, while the dynamic aberrations (caused by inadequate mirror support) will be reduced by implementing improvements to the primary mirror cell. For more information, please contact the P.I., Eric Tollestrup (

New Telescope Control System
Work on replacing the telescope control system is proceeding. We have installed some of the new hardware and software at the summit and are using it on a daily basis. Current work is focused on testing the servo system and finishing the remaining hardware. We will begin daytime testing in March.

Remote Observing
Spring 2006 is the first semester in which remote observing has reached up to 70% of the total observing time scheduled on the IRTF in a single month. Saving travel time and money makes remote observing an appealing choice, but first–time observers are required advised to be on–site for their run.