Fall 2012 News

Last updated 1 September 2012

Proposal Deadline for Semester 2013A (February 1, 2013 - July 31, 2013) is Monday, October 1, 2012, 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 Thomas Greathouse (SWRI), Andy Rivkin (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab), Kris Sellgren (Ohio State University), Jason Surace (CalTech.), Leslie Young (SWRI) and Kevin Covey (Cornell Univeristy) This committee consists of three solar system and three non-solar system members. The members who rotated off are Kevin Luhman (Penn. State Univ.) and Susan Lederer (Johnson Space Center).

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. 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


Personnel Spotlight

George Koenig retires

"As a young man growing up in New Jersey little did I know that on one especially freezing night while trying to raise a jammed window on a British sports car, that one day on an especially freezing night I would be on top of a telescope dome on Mauna Kea trying to close a stuck telescope shutter. A four year visit to Missouri for a degree in commercial art and a several year stint as a magazine art director in New York didn't bring forth any images of me transferring liquid helium into an infrared instrument used to detect volcanoes on one of Jupiter's moons. Spending time as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Kingdom of Tonga setting up a facility to maintain and repair audio visual gear also didn't create any new occupational trends toward astronomy in my mind. Although it did bring me to Hilo for orientation training, and if I had chosen the daytrip 'hike to Mauna Kea' over 'swim Hapuna Beach' things may have turned out quite different as the hikers' memories were much more painful than the snorkelers. Upon returning to Hilo after the 2 years in Tonga I was involved in selling and repairing both mechanical and electronic business equipment. Which, as a small business enterprise, is equivalent to working at least two jobs and paying yourself for something less than one. That’s when I imagined working on Mauna Kea, which became a reality in April 1983. What I never imagined was what a wonderful, intelligent, enthusiastic, and helpful group of co-workers, managers, engineers, and visiting astronomers I would encounter on a daily basis, all of who made me look like I knew what I was doing for the past 3 decades. I haven't encountered any stuck windows around the house yet, but if I do I'll put on boots and a parka and get busy."

Since retiring, Koenig has been busy in his woodshop making Shoji Lamps. We wish him all the best and commend him for his 30 years of service to the IRTF.

George Koenig retires

Instrumentation Update

After developing a high level of read-noise NSFCAM2 has been brought to the Hilo laboratory for upgrades to its H2RG infrared detector and array controller. NSFCAM2 will act as a test platform for Astronomical Research Cameras (ARC) array controllers that will eventually be utilized on the SpeX and iShell instruments. The new ARC controller is showing enormous potential as laboratory bench tests have already revealed them to be working at desirable specifications for infrared astronomy. NSFCAM2 is scheduled to be retuned to operation on the telescope in January 2013. For more information please contact Michael Connelley.

SpeX is a 0.8-5.5 micron medium-resolution spectrograph and imager. SpeX will not be available during Semester 2013B. It will be removed from the telescope on August 1 2013 for upgrade. SpeX will be back on the telescope at the start of Semester 2014A, February 1 2014. The upgrade involves involves replacing the 1024x1024 Aladdin 3 InSb array in the spectrograph with a 2024x2048 Hawaii-2RG array from Teledyne. We expect improved sensitivity and increased wavelength coverage in the standard observing modes. The resolving power and slit sizes will remain the same although pixel sampling will be increased. The current engineering quality 512x512 InSb array in the slit viewer will be replaced with the array to be removed from the spectropgraph, resulting in improved imaging sensitivity and cosmetics. The field of view and pixel scale of the slit viewer will be unchanged. The arrays will be run by new ARC controllers. The MORIS CCD camera (see below), which is fed by a selectable dichroic inside SpeX, is now available as a facility visible guider for SpeX. This has been particularly valuable for SpeX observations of small solar system objects where accurate guiding on targets as faint as V magnitude of 20 is now routinely possible. For more information about 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 (although CSHELL still has to be rotated manually). Support for the autofocus and collimation tool has also be added. We expect to replace CSHELL with iSHELL (see below) in about 2015. Contact John Rayner for more details.

The MIRSI instrument has experienced significant problems and has been removed from the schedule. In the short term MIRSI will not be available; however, because of its niche capabilities it is being evaluated for repairs and possible upgrade of its array controller electronics. For more information concerning the MIRSI instrument contact Bobby Bus.

iSHELL is 1-5 micron R=70,000 cross-dispersed spectrograph currently under construction at IRTF. It has about twice the resolving power and up to about 50 times the one-shot wavelength covererage of CSHELL, which it will replace. Like SpeX, iSHELL will employ an infrared slit viewer for efficient target acquisition and guiding. iSHELL will undergo a preliminary design review late this year. In order to meet its fabrication schedule IRTF will be enlisting the help of an engineering firm that will assist with the development of this instrument to the critical design review stage. A PDF copy of the 2008 proposal to NSF can be downloaded here. Contact Alan Tokunaga or John Rayner if you have any questions regarding iSHELL.

Dome Upgrade (update):
After 30 years of operation the IRTF’s dome has become prone to jamming. A replacement set of powerful brushless Baldor servo motors are being bench tested in the Hilo laboratory along with their electronic controllers. Once integrated into the telescope control software (TCS), the motors will be able to move the dome more precisely thereby allowing the next critical phase to begin, which is the grinding and smoothing of the dome’s rail surface.