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NOAO Newsletter - Observational Programs - September 2000 - Number 63


MMT Begins Scientific Observations --- No Call for New MMT Proposals This Semester

Todd Boroson and Craig Foltz

The 6.5-m MMT saw first light at its f/9 Cassegrain focus on 17 May 2000. The telescope was dedicated on 20 May 2000, and limited scientific observations began shortly thereafter. During the very first observing run, an NSF Public Access night was scheduled with the MIRAC/BLINC mid-infrared camera. In fact, this was the first program on the new telescope to be awarded time by a telescope allocation committee. Much remains to be done, but the telescope's optical performance exceeded expectation.

Because the pace of construction and commissioning has been a little slower than our (optimistic) hopes, we intend to carry over the Public Access programs that had been approved for the 2000A semester to be executed in the 2001A semester. Consequently, we will not be soliciting new MMT Public Access programs for the upcoming proposal deadline. We expect to solicit new proposals for the next deadline, in March 2001.

Activities being carried out during the summer shutdown of the telescope include: (1) tuning and optimization of the mount servos, (2) installation of the instrument rotator and its control system, (3) installation of the primary mirror thermal control system, and (4) optimization of the primary mirror figure. It is anticipated that scientific observing will begin in earnest after Labor Day 2000, with more than 50% of the time being scheduled for scientific programs and instrument integration.


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