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NOAO Annual Report FY 1999


CTIO Operations

Telescope Upgrades and Instrumentation

CTIO made significant progress during FY 1999 on its goal of providing a suite of telescopes and instruments that are scientifically productive in an era of 8- to 10-m telescopes, and complement the capabilities of the Gemini 8-m, by the commissioning of three new instruments on the Blanco 4-m telescope. In addition, significant resources are being directed towards the SOAR project, including work on two of the first-light instruments. Further scientific and technical details of the operation can be accessed via: http://www.ctio.noao.edu/.

YALO

The Yale 1-m telescope, now run by the YALO consortium (Yale, AURA, Lisbon, and Ohio State U.), has been back in operation throughout FY 1999, providing optical synoptic observing. The service-observing mode has opened up a unique new opportunity to NOAO users, enabling synoptic observations which do not require complete nights, but rather hours of observations on many nights. NOAO's 10% share of observing time has been used for projects ranging from monitoring variable stars to following supernovae as they fade. Those kinds of observations had been more difficult to schedule on the existing CTIO telescopes. In May 1999, the timesharing agreement was renegotiated, with CTIO providing a 1K x 1K HgCdTe infra-red detector array in exchange for additional time. As a result, the NOAO share of observing time increased to almost 20%. The IR detector was installed in July 1999 by Ohio State University to complete the IR channel in ANDYCAM, the simultaneous IR-optical imager. Simultaneous optical and IR observations are now possible, enhancing the unique aspects of this facility. Further details can be accessed via: http://www.ctio.noao.edu/yale/yalo.html.

Atacama Site Survey

An important component of the NOAO Long Range Plan is the building of the Next Big Telescope (NBT). Although excellent sites have already been identified in northern Chile (Tololo, La Silla, Pachón, Paranal, Chajnantor), we need to identify the best site based on the scientific priorities and technical attributes of the NBT. We began this project in FY 1999 by gathering data from earlier surveys and conducting a preliminary topographical analysis. We have also let a contract for a detailed cloud and water vapor analysis of the GOES-8 satellite data, covering 1995--1999. We hope to have the results of this analysis available by late FY 2000, and then be able to trim the list of possible sites down to 5--6, which will be further reduced to 2--3 sites after on-site weather and geological analyses. These remaining sites will be thoroughly tested. As part of the complement of test equipment, we are assembling three Differential Image Motion Monitors (DIMMs), copies of those developed for site testing by ESO. One DIMM will be permanently installed on Tololo, replacing a less capable equivalent; the others will be used first on Cerro Pachón and then at remote sites during the period of intensive site monitoring.


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NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), Inc. under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation