Previous Article Next Article Table of Contents


From the NSO Director's Office (1Mar95) (from NSO, NOAO Newsletter No. 41, 1 March 1995) A number of important events occurred in the period covered by this Newsletter which I will summarize below under different subheadings. Horst A. Mauter On 27 January, Horst Mauter, the former Chief Observer at the Big Dome and the Vacuum Tower Telescope died in Alamogordo at the age of 69. He joined the Sacramento Peak Observatory in 1958 and stayed with the observatory until his retirement in 1988. Horst was a most remarkable individual. It is hard to think of anyone more capable in working with complex opto-mechanical telescopes and instruments to arrive at the best possible observations. Mauter was the most competent telescope operator whom I had the pleasure to work with at the many solar and nighttime observatories where I had the opportunity to observe. The many messages of condolences from all over the world make the scope of his impact on solar astronomy clear. His exceptional skills, his always present can-do attitude to help the user achieve the best data possible, and his ability to make everybody feel at home and welcome at the observatory made him many friends. His departure is being felt as a big loss by everyone at the observatory and by the many users who had the opportunity to work with Horst Mauter over the thirty years during which he was an essential part of the Sacramento Peak Observatory. A memorial service was held on 18 February at the observatory. Matching NSO's Program to the 1995 Budget Following a 5% cut in funding in the last fiscal year, NSO (as well as the other NOAO observatories) is faced with another 5% reduction in real support this year. It is abundantly clear that the times where belt-tightening could solve budget problems of this size are over. In the past, cuts were absorbed in the scientific or initiatives program of NSO, leaving the telescope operations unaffected. As a result the scientific staff supporting NSO's operations has dwindled, and the instrumentation program is reduced to a level which makes university efforts appear large in comparison. After discussion of the long term directions of NSO with NSO's Users' Committee (see report in this Newsletter), it was therefore decided to abandon the old paradigm of keeping all telescopes operating in the face of budget cuts like the present one. The proposed reduction in operational support consisted of reducing the amount of operator-assisted observing time at the J. Evans Solar Facility at Sac Peak to 50%, with the remainder of the time available to astronomers trained in the operation of the telescope, and the termination of the solar-stellar program at the McMath-Pierce facility at Kitt Peak. Especially the latter action has a major impact on our user community, effectively disenfranchising a large part of it. Many strong objections were raised to this action by the community affected, many of them pointing out the large impact of a relatively minor budget reduction (about 50 K$). It is indeed true that such a cut on the margin of a program has consequences which far exceed in value the budget savings achieved. It is well known that major savings can only be achieved by far more draconian measures, like closing an entire observing site. At NSO that is an unacceptable option since both sites have unique capabilities, unduplicated elsewhere, so that the closing of one of its sites not just reduces services to our users community but also results in the elimination of, for example, the capability of doing infrared solar observations at all wavelengths with the collecting area and angular resolution needed as can now be done with the Kitt Peak McMath-Pierce facility. No other facility exists anywhere else in the world with comparable capabilities. Similar statements can be made for the high angular resolution and coronal capabilities at Sac Peak. The proposed termination of the solar-stellar program, and the resulting reactions, therefore highlights an unavoidable coming crisis in NSO, as budgets are likely to continue to decrease over the coming years and as it will be necessary to downsize NSO as a result. I invite expressions of your views on how to best prepare for this crisis. Relief for NSO's Solar-Stellar Program I am pleased to announce that, since my announcement at the Tucson AAS meeting of the proposed termination of NSO's Solar-Stellar program, NOAO has received some additional funds from the National Science Foundation to smooth the transition to a lower operating budget. A portion of these funds will be used to maintain the solar-stellar program at least to the end of this fiscal year (31 September 1995). That allows the solar-stellar community some time to formulate a program for its research needs and to advocate this program. I have asked Mark Giampapa on our staff to take the lead in doing this. Initial discussions with Sidney Wolff and Mark aimed at formulating an outline of this activity focus on : (1) defining the areas of nighttime astronomy which are part of solar-stellar astronomy (eg. stellar activity cycles, stellar coronae/envelopes, asteroseismology, rotation of sun-like stars, starspots), (2) identifying research programs in this area and (3) arriving at the resulting needs in terms of telescopes, instruments, and synoptic and regular observing time. We would like this program to be not just focussed on the McMath-Pierce facility, but to also include larger telescopes (even 8-meter class) including both national and non-public facilities. As this initiative develops Mark will give you more details. Given the budget time scale, we aim at getting at least a preliminary report by early summer this year. Thomas Rimmele Joins NSO/SP Staff Thomas Rimmele has accepted an offer to join the scientific staff at NSO/SP filling the vacancy created by the departure last year by Jim Moore, NSO/SP's engineering manager. Thomas has been a visiting scientist to NSO/SP from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Before that he worked at the Kiepenheuer Institut fr Sonnenphysik (KIS). Thomas has a strong background both in solar research and in hands-on instrumentation development. Among other instrumental efforts, he was responsible for the building of the solar correlation tracker at NSO/SP and the KIS. Presently he is engaged in the construction of the Mark II version of this correlation tracker and in the deployment of a state-of-the-art 1024 1024 high speed (6 frames/second) CCD system. In his new position Rimmele will be working on real time solar wavefront sensing techniques, using extensions of his correlation tracking device, and he will work with Dick Dunn in the integration of these techniques in the NSO adaptive optics system. He is also actively engaged in the improvement of the image quality at NSO's telescopes at Sac Peak and Kitt Peak (see article at the beginning of this Newsletter). He will encourage cooperative programs in this and other areas with research groups in the US and abroad. Welcome aboard Thomas! Jacques Beckers
Previous Article Next Article Table of Contents