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NOAO Nighttime Instrumentation Program (1Dec95) (from Director's Office, NOAO Newsletter No. 44, December 1995) 1 October marks the start of our program year 1996. We anticipate the completion of four projects this year, and a strong beginning on four more. At the head of the queue is Phoenix, the high-dispersion near-IR spectrograph. The large dewar shell has been successfully completed. Mechanism assembly and cold testing is well underway. A major push is on to modify the WILDFIRE controller to operate the two adjacent quadrants of an ALADIIN InSb array to provide the usable 1024 x ~300 format. Project Scientist Ken Hinkle has been working with the IPG team to a schedule that calls for lab integration and system testing starting in early February and telescope testing later in the spring. Watch the next Newsletter for the possibility of shared risk availability in fall semester 1996. As Phoenix winds down its design and fabrication activity, the Large CCD Mosaic Imager will take its place. Detail design and initial fabrication is underway for the filter transport mechanism, the supporting frame, and the dewar layout. The CTIO technical group is heavily engaged in modifying the Arcon software and fabricating the hardware to control the eight CCDs. Project Scientists Todd Boroson and Taft Armandroff are devising the strategy to populate the full detector format with devices. It is likely that there will be a steady improvement in cosmetic quality as the first-light CCDs are replaced with later generation 2K x 4K devices. The schedule goal is to test the system at the 0.9-m during summer shutdown. During that time, the required modifications will be made to the Prime Focus pedestal of the Mayall 4-meter, particularly to accommodate the increased demand for precision motion with a 500 pound load. The new Prime Focus corrector with increased back focal distance and dispersion compensating prisms is planned to be installed later in 1996. The CCD Mosaic could be available for shared risk use in spring semester 1997. At the end of spring observing next semester, the Cryogenic Optical Bench will be removed from service for retrofitting with an ALADDIN InSb array with one high quality 512 square working quadrant. The imager and modified WILDFIRE controller will then be shipped to CTIO for regular use as a high-resolution imager, matched to the new tip/tilt secondary. Ultimately, it is the intention to upgrade the system to a full 1024 square format array and new generation controller, as they become available. As you read elsewhere in the Newsletter, the experiment of near diffraction-limited imaging with hardware shift-and-add on the Kitt Peak 4-meter telescope was a great success. The Datacube fast DSP enabling the experiment will serve as the heart of the next generation IR array controller, with adequate capacity for operation of full-format ALADDIN arrays in the thermal infrared. Ian Gatley is working with the IR electronics group, Jerry Heim, Nick Bucholz and Al Fowler to design and implement these new controllers, which will be integral parts of the next generation instruments for both NOAO and Gemini. The plan is to test their performance at the telescope during shutdown this coming summer. The Gemini IR Spectrograph is now an official project, with the signing of the Workscope by the US Gemini Project Office, the International Gemini Project, and NOAO. Dan Vukobratovich has been brought on board as the Project Engineer, Jay Elias is serving as Project Scientist, and the technical team is being assembled. While the conceptual design is being polished, preliminary functional documentation is being prepared. The Conceptual Design Review will be held next March. For continuity in the program, new instruments are being planned to follow the major projects nearing completion. The highest priority of the Users Committee was a clone of the Hydra fiber positioner, now successfully in routine scientific operation at WIYN. The design for the R-C focus of the Blanco 4-meter will, of course, be similar to that for the Mayall 4-meter. Project Scientist Sam Barden will lead the effort to replace the current motor controllers, which are no long available, with higher performance, modern ones. A first design review is scheduled for 13 December. Two strongly desired capabilities are near-infrared spectroscopy for Kitt Peak, and new high-throughput optical spectrographs for both sites. The GRASP design for multi-color IR imaging and spectroscopy was brought to completion, but was likely to have a protracted development schedule with available resources. The possibility of collaboration to produce a multi-band imager/spectrograph is being actively pursued, and will be discussed further as positive results develop. New technology for high-throughput optical spectroscopy will be investigated in the lab this year, as the basis for a new design to be discussed with users and the community. As always, we want your comments. As we move Phoenix and Mosaic to completion, we will have the opportunity for new starts. What should be our highest priorities for updating our current suite of instruments? What capabilities are most needed, and at which site? These will be the instruments that will be completed as the Gemini telescopes come on line, and will provide the support for and complement to Gemini observational programs. We value your participation in that forward look. Richard Green
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