Report of the 82nd meeting of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope's

Scientific Advisory Council

Waimea, Hawaii, 19-20 November 2012

The 82nd CFHT Scientific Advisory Council meeting was held at the CFHT headquarters in Waimea, Hawaii, November 19-20/2012. SAC members John Blakeslee, Mark Chun, Thierry Contini, Thierry Forveille (chair), Rodrigo Ibata, Coralie Neiner, Marcin Sawicki, Gregg Wade and Jon Willis (vice-chair) attended the meeting. Youichi Ohyama, from the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taiwan and Xu Zhou, from the National Astronomical Observatory of China, attended the meeting as invitees. The CFHT Executive Director (ED) Doug Simons, and CFHT staff Daniel Devost, Derrick Salmon, Jean-Charles Cuillandre made presentations, as did Patrick Cote from HIA for the ngCFHT project. They and many members of the CFHT staff participated in discussions.

Recommendation 1 SPIRou
Recommendation 2 Operational priorities

1. Presentation by the Executive director

As part of the introduction to the SAC meeting the ED presented a series of future development scenarios to the SAC members. This presentation provided an excellent summary of CFHT's potential future paths. The issues were well considered, broad in scope and provided the SAC members with an important context for their subsequent discussions.

2. SPIRou

As part of the SPIRou PDR process the SAC was tasked with reviewing the PDR submission documents and preparing a recommendation to the Board.

As mentioned above, the SAC had previously listened to input from the ED on the number of future development paths that CFHT might take.

The documents considered as part of the review included the PDR panel report with responses from the SPIRou team, the report to SAC from the SPIRou team and two documents from the SPIRou team pertaining to science cases and results from mock surveys.

The SAC consider the SPIRou science case to be very strong and potentially world leading if the full K-band, polarimetric, 1 m/s precision is achieved in a timely fashion.

However, the project is beset by numerous problems including the management structure, procurement issues, budgetary and fundamental technical uncertainties. The cumulative effect of this uncertainty led the SAC to voice serious and unanimous concerns as to the achievability of the core science goals of the project. The SAC also voiced concerns as to whether any de-scoped science capability would remain competitive given the uncertainty of the instrument timeline.

Overall the SAC was disappointed with the outcome of the PDR review and they echoed the response of the review panel which was that the submitted review documents do little to quantify and address the considerable risks associated with continuing with SPIRou development.

There was significant discussion within the SAC as to how to respond to this situation - with no clear majority emerging. A number of SAC members recommended immediate termination of the project. A number recommended that, while recognizing that the project could not continue in the present form, the SPIRou team be offered a chance to respond to the failings in the PDR process. A majority of SAC members considered that the project should not continue in its current form.

Recommendation 1

The SAC recommends that SPIRou development does not proceed past PDR with CFHT funding and resources.

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3. Dome shutter repairs and upgrade

The SAC received an update on the status of the dome shutter drive system and ongoing efforts to replace the speed reducer assemblies, as well as to put in place monitoring tools to warn of developing problems in the future. The SAC recognizes that a great deal of progress has been made in the past six months and commends the staff, especially the summit crew, on their hard work and professionalism. The SAC encourages continued efforts to achieve a long-term solution, including upgraded electronic drive motor controllers and a careful monitoring program, to reduce the risk of further failures.

4. Technical Activities report

SAC reviewed the technical activities report coordinated by Derrick Salmon. SAC extends its acknowledgement to the CFHT staff for achieving significant progress on several projects while addressing a major technical emergency.

Recommendation 2

The 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 Imaka
7 OPERA for ESPaDOns
8 WIRCam data pipeline

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5. QSO report

The latest Queued-Service Observing report was presented. 2012A was affected by the 67 nights lost to the dome shutter failure. Consequently, MegaCam and WIRCam programs achieved only 40 and 45% completion rate. ESPaDOns, by contrast, happened to not have been scheduled during the dome shutter failure and benefitted from good weather. The ESPaDOns programs consequently had a 95% completion rate. The first half of 2012B had good weather, with worse statistically expected for its second (winter) half.

6. Large program progress reports

SAC reviewed the status reports from the MaPP, MiMeS, PAndAS, CFHQSIR, and TETrES large programs, and was satisfied with their progress. These programs will finish their allocations at the end of semester 2012B, or have long finished observing for PAndAS. The NGVS large program resubmitted its May 2012 report. This was deemed acceptable since very little observing for that program has been obtained over the last six months.

7. ngCFHT

The SAC heard a presentation from Patrick Cote and reviewed the submitted documents presenting the science case and technical feasibility of the "Next Generation CFHT" concept. Clearly, a great deal of effort has been put into this ambitious idea already. The envisioned facility would meet the outstanding need for dedicated, wide-field, large-aperture spectroscopic follow-up of the various large-scale imaging surveys now in the implementation or planning stages. Although the present CFHT Corporation would not be able to fund such a major upgrade to the observatory, the SAC recognizes that the proposed science is of the highest quality and that many transformational studies would be enabled by such a facility.

8. CFHT LS final release

SAC offers its congratulations to the CFHT LS team on reaching the major milestone of the CFHT LS Final Release. The SAC recognizes and appreciates the care and dedication the team has put into this final release.  The Legacy Survey's enduring impact defines the standard for excellence in the field.

9. Possible use of CFHT for ground-based preparation/follow-up of EUCLID

SAC received a request from Ray Carlberg to comment on the possibility of using CFHT to provide ground-based imaging in support of the Euclid space mission. The survey requires of order 5000 square degrees in the g,r,i,z band passes to allow the measurement of the photometric redshifts necessary for that major cosmological experiment. Even with a suggested upgrade of the MegaCam CCDs, this program would consume the bulk of all observing time over the course of many years and would thus represent a major change in the way the telescope is used.  Given the dramatic nature of this change, it would therefore be up to the Agencies to decide whether to implement such a change in the telescope's use model. The SAC suggests that the way to proceed would be for the proponents of this idea to develop a science case document backed by a technical feasibility study, build support in the user communities, and approach the Agencies.

10. Possible conversion of CFHT to a wider imaging field

The SAC listened to a presentation by Jean-Charles Cuillandre on the "Super CFHT" concept, which elaborated on a document submitted before the meeting. This is a concept for a project to refigure the primary mirror of the telescope and replace all current instrumentation by an extremely wide field prime-focus imager. That would allow the CFHT to operate very efficiently as a photometric survey instrument, and in particular would greatly reduced the time needed to provide ground-based support for the Euclid space mission. That support would still require a major investment of telescope time (several years) to accomplish.

11. Users' meeting

The CFHT users' meeting will take place at Painter's Lodge in Campbell River, BC, Canada, on  6-8 May 2013; it will be followed by the SAC meeting on 9-10 May 2013.  The theme of the users' meeting will be the future of CFHT in the context of Mauna Kea observatories.  The SAC feels that the LOC has made excellent progress and is at the appropriate stage in organizing the conference. The SAC is looking forward to a successful and productive meeting.