Earthquake Report

Last updated Oct. 26, 2006

Many of you have expressed some concern regarding the status of the IRTF, and I am pleased to announce that we are fine.

A 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck near the South Kohala Coast on Sunday, Oct. 15, at 7:07 AM. This was followed by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake at 7:14 AM. There were numerous aftershocks in the days after Oct. 15. The IFA facilities in Hilo did not suffer any significant damage, although the Waimea facilities of Keck and CFHT did have extensive damage. There were no injuries at home or at the observatory reported by our staff.

A visual inspection of the IRTF revealed no perceptible damage, although the earthquake had knocked over many small items. Quick action by George Koenig, Eric Tollestrup, Charles Lockhart, and Miranda Hawarden-Ogata on Sunday was crucial in minimizing problems with the facility and instruments. The air conditioning system and electronics were secured before the power was turned on. Electric power was restored at about 2:30PM on Oct. 15, and the instruments were nurtured back to health. NSFCAM2 has a large format array that had to be carefully watched to prevent large temperature excursions.

On the morning of Oct. 17, we opened for observations of Saturn and our systems performed normally. On the evening of Oct. 18, we did a pointing run and the pointing coefficients were typical. This indicates that the alignment of the polar axis did not shift significantly.

Here is a picture from the USGS website showing the earthquake and its many aftershocks. Here is a story from the Honolulu Advertiser and here are two stories from the Star Bulletin, from Oct 16th and Oct 18th.

Fall 2006 News

Last updated Nov. 02, 2006

Proposal Deadline for February 1 – July 31, 2007
Spring 2007 semester observing proposals are due on Monday, October 2, 2006. See the information and application form in the sidebar under “Applications.” Available instruments include (1) SpeX, a 1–5 micron cross–dispersed medium–resolution spectrograph (up to R = 2,500); (2) CSHELL, a 1–5 micron high–resolution spectrograph (up to R = 30,000); (3) MIRSI, a 5–25 micron camera and low–resolution spectrometer (R = 100 to 200), (4) NSFCAM2, a 2048x2048 pixel, 1–5 micron camera with a 0.04 arcsec/pixel scale and a complement of discrete filters, CVFs, and grisms; and (5) PI–instruments including a low–resolution 3–14 micron spectrograph and high–resolution spectrographs for 8–25 microns. Note that TEXES is available at the IRTF for this semester and at Gemini North in the fall semester. Information on available instruments can be found at Remote observing from any location will be supported.

Spectral Library Now Available!
The Spex spectral library for FGKMLT stars is now available. The papers by John Rayner, William Vacca, and Michael Cushing should be referenced when this library is used.

NEO Spectral Survey
Note that the MIT-IRTF Near-Earth Object spectral survey is underway, and many spectra publicly available. See the side bar for more information or go to

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 your reprints to 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 ensure future funding of IRTF instruments.

Instrumentation Update
NSFCAM2, with a 2048x2048 array, is presently being readied for commissioning. We are still in the process of solving excess noise problems in the array. For status on this instrument, contact Eric Tollestrup ( or see

New Secondary Mirror
The initial phase of replacing the IRTF secondary mirrors with a new corrective, scatter compensating mirror is now 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. The goal of this NSF funded project is to correct the major static aberrations (mostly spherical aberrations) 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 the secondary mirror. This project is part of a three-pronged program underway at the IRTF to improve the image quality of the telescope that also includes improving the optics, controlling dome seeing, and reducing the aberrations caused by dynamic aberrations. For more information, please contact the P.I., Eric Tollestrup (

We have implemented autofocus with SpeX. The telescope operator will obtain the focus for all users. This should save users much time each night with the focusing. The data obtained from the autofocus will be used to help analyze the image quality each night.

Remote Observing
Remote observing continues to be in demand at the IRTF. Saving travel time and money makes remote observing an appealing choice, but first–time observers are advised to be on–site for their run.

Roof Repair Completed
We have been suffering from a leaky roof for over a year. However, a completely new top layer has been added to the roof this summer, and the sides of the roof and dome skirt area have also been repaired. This should last for about 7 years and end the occasional water infiltration in the control room area, much to the relief of our telescope operators.

Take a Tour of the IRTF!
The recently installed virtual tour allows anyone to visit the IRTF. Step inside the dome and view our telescope up close.