BackgroundThe concept of a wide-field camera for the near infrared was discussed at the 1998 CFHT Users Meeting and was the subject of a SAC recommendation from their May 1998 meeting (immediately following the Users Meeting) :
The realization of a wide field NIR imaging camera as a major instrument to follow Megacam is strongly urged by SAC and supported by the CFHT users. CFHT should begin planning for this now, for implementation by 2002. A field size of 20 arcmin or larger is highly desirable. We recommend a working group be set up by CFHT.
An infrared working group was struck to advise CFHT and work on conceptual studies was undertaken by Klaus Hoddap (IFA) and, independently, by Rene Doyon (Montreal). These early concepts, circa 2000, were based around the Hawaii-2 (2kx2k) detectors and assumed that the instrument would be mounted at the CFHT f/8 Cassegrain focus. When it became clear in early 2001 that the Hawaii-2RG devices being developed by Rockwell for potential NGST application would be available in buttable packages, the prospect of a design with a compact focal plane mosiac became real. This in turn allowed us to consider mounting the instrument at prime focus, essentially replacing the CFHT12k camera with WIRCam. A conceptual design, developed by a Montreal-Grenoble collaboration, for a compact prime focus instrument was presented in July 2001 and became the baseline for WIRCam. The project was started with a kick-off meeting held in Waimea in October 2001.
A WIRCam project office was set up in Waimea under the initial direction of Derrick Salmon and in August 2002, Pascal Puget arrived at CFHT, on leave from Grenoble, to serve as the WIRCam Project Manager and Project Engineer. Please refer to the News for updates on WIRCam activities and to the WIRCam Science pages for information on the instrument specifications and scientific use. The current project schedule calls for WIRCam to be on the sky in semester 2005A.
PartnersIn the summer of 2000, the Korea Astronomy Observatory (KAO) and the CFHT entered into a collaborative agreement that would provide partial funding for WIRCam. A similar agreement with the Cosmology and Particle Astrophysics consortium (CosPA), a group of research institutes in Taiwan was reached in the spring of 2001. CosPA includes the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA), the National Taiwan University (NTU) physics department, the National Central University (NCU) Institute of Astronomy, and the National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) physics department.