83rd meeting of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope

Scientific Advisory Council

Campbell River, B.C., Canada, May 9-10, 2013

NOTE: The report presented below is the public version of the SAC report as amended by the CFHT Board of Directors.

After deliberation, the CFHT Board of Directors has endorsed SAC’s recommendation No. 3, New Call for Large Programs and has granted the Executive Director authorization to issue such call in October 2013.

The remaining recommendations will be further discussed at the Board's next regular meeting, December 2013.

Recommendation 1 Operational Priorities
Recommendation 2 CFHT Partnership
Recommendation 3 Large Programs

The 83rd CFHT Science Advisory Council meeting was held at Painter's Lodge in Campbell River, British Colombia May 9-10/2013, and immediately followed the 10th CFHT Users' meeting held at the same venue. SAC members Herve Aussel, John Blakeslee, Thierry Contini, Thierry Forveille (chair), Andrew Howard, Rodrigo Ibata, David Sanders, Marcin Sawicki (vice-chair), Gregg Wade and Jon Willis attended the meeting. Wei-Hao Wang, from the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taiwan, attended the meeting as an invitee. The CFHT executive director Doug Simons, the CFHT senior resident astronomer Daniel Devost, the CFHT director of engineering Derrick Salmon, and for specific items several CFHT staff members, participated in presentations and discussions.

1. IQ improvement project

The SAC received a detailed update on the progress of the dome venting improvements. The first venting unit was installed on the telescope shortly before the SAC meeting, as a test of the contractor's procedures, with the installation of both the remaining units by the contractor and all units' controls by CFHT staff expected in September. SAC commends CFHT and its contractor for the very smooth progress of the project over the last semester, and will eagerly await the first results of the dome venting on the image quality delivered by the telescope.

The SAC also heard estimates of the cost and telescope downtime for either a repolishing of the primary mirror or its refiguring to a faster F ratio. SAC concurs with the conclusion by the CFHT executive that further action in that direction is not advisable at this time.


The SAC received a detailed update on the progress of the construction of SITELLE and of its scientific analysis pipeline. The project has made excellent progress, with moderate delays on some less critical items but with the single highest technical risk to the project now completely retired. The resulting schedule to completion is tight and consequently may slip slightly, but the project is well under control.

The SAC received a presentation of the plans for a 10 nights Science Verification Phase that will exercise SITELLE in all its major operations modes and verify its performance on the sky. The SAC approves of these plans, but encourages the SITELLE team to solicit input from the broad CFHT community for the science verification plan, to help engage this community with the instrument at the earliest possible phase.


The SAC received a presentation on the results of Phase 1 of the 'IMAKA project, which used a constellation of 5 fixed wavefront sensors adjusted to stars in the Pleiades to characterize the vertical distribution of atmospheric turbulence above the telescope. That measurement was scheduled for 3 nights but was extended to eventually 9 nights, after a major failure of the dome crane prevented instrument exchanges (and also greatly complicated the retrieval of an 'IMAKA team member from the prime focus cage on the night of the failure). Those nights mostly had poor seeing, but nonetheless provide important information, including a clear distinction between dome and ground layer seeings, and strong indications that Ground Layer Adaptive Optics atop Mauna Kea can deliver excellent image quality over a wide field.

The SAC also received an outline of the 'IMAKA team plans to reply to the Instrument Development AO with proposal for a GLAO instrument based on Rayleigh Laser Guide Stars and with a 10-15; field of view.

4. Operations and Upgrade report

SAC received a presentation of the technical activities report by Derrick Salmon.

SAC again extends its acknowledgement to the CFHT staff for achieving significant progress on several projects while unfortunately having to address again very significant problems in the telescope infrastructure.

Recommendation 1 - Operational Priorities

SAC recommends that the Operational Priorities be revised to:

1 Normal Operations
2 Dome shutter work
3 IQIP, including dome venting
4 Sitelle
5 TCS upgrade
6 OPERA for ESPaDOns
7 WIRCam data pipeline

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5. Potential expansion of the CFHT partnership

The SAC was very excited by the opportunities that would be offered to the community by the potential acquisition of UKIRT and the expansion of the current partnership. The addition of UKIRT could provide the means to undertake exciting and ambitious new programs and may render the operation of current and future instrumentation more efficient. It may also be a strong asset to have in hand that will allow our communities to attract additional partners into the consortium. The expansion of the CFHT partnership could facilitate this growth and offer exciting new possibilities for future science.

Recommendation 2 - CFHT Partnership

If the acquisition of UKIRT becomes a reality, the SAC recommends that CFHT does not compromise on the range and quality of its scientific services to the community. The incorporation of UKIRT should be achieved in such a way as to minimize the impact on current science operations.

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6. Users' Meeting

The SAC was pleased to attend a very successful Users' Meeting. This was one of the best attended UMs in the history of CFHT and can be taken as a strong statement of the continuing engagement of the community. The meeting provided a platform for discussing CFHT science achievements, current instrument development and future prospects. The SAC recognized that the recently completed LPs have had an immediate and high scientific impact and that the scientific return from these projects should continue for a number of years.

The UM also provided an important opportunity for teams preparing to submit proposals in response to the current AO to present their ideas and gather community support. A variety of proposals covering the full range of concepts from relatively small instrument upgrades to new facility instruments were presented and discussed. The UM also heard presentations from the directors of three additional Mauna Kea facilities (Subaru, Gemini and UKIRT) on the theme of future inter-observatory cooperation. In particular, the community heard of the current opportunity to operate the UKIRT facility and the community discussion recognized the potential synergy between the CFHT and UKIRT.

The meeting concluded with an open discussion of the future of CFHT and it was immediately clear that the community is strongly committed to developing a scientifically compelling long term future for CFHT. Three ideas in particular looked towards the 2020 horizon: a large Megacam survey in support of the Euclid mission, a large survey for extrasolar planets with the SPIRou instrument and the transformation of the CFHT facility into a wide-field, highly-multiplexed spectroscopic facility (ngCFHT). The community expressed no clear preference for a single idea - although it was also apparent that the future concurrent development of these three concepts may be viable within an expanded CFHT partnership potentially including UKIRT.

7. Large Programs

The SAC members attended presentations of the results of the recently completed set of Large Programs, and were impressed by the breadth and depth of those results, which again validate the LP concept. The SAC also heard a brief presentation of the progress to date of the recently started set of new LPs.

Recommendation 3 - Large Programs

In light of the scientific impact of the recently completed Large Programs and of the anticipated impact of the recently started Large Programs, and as planned during the last call for LPs, SAC recommends that a call for additional Large Programs be issued to cover the four semesters starting with 2015A. SAC recommends that these new LPs be allocated up to 20% of time on the telescope. To allow the start of new LPs in 2015A, the call should be issued in early October 2013 with a proposal submission date in February 2014.

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8. QSO report

The latest Queued-Service Observing report was presented to the SAC. The end of 2012B was affected by the dome crane failure, by the massive telescope building water leak and consequent electrical failure, by poor weather, and by lingering problems with the dome shutter. MegaCam was least affected, with completion rates for the semester of 90 and 80% for the A and B programs, WIRCam most at 75 and 60%, and ESPaDOns in-between at 85 and 70%. The first half of 2013A was affected by poor weather.

9. Next Meeting

The next CFHT SAC meeting will be held in Waimea Hawaii on September 27-28/2013 and will examine the replies to the Instrument Development AO. An e-meeting on November 14th will be organized to address items for which information will not yet be available in September. It will in particular include a meeting of the ITAC.