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Strategic Plan Charge

By admin - Posted on 31 October 2013

MMT Strategic Plan Committee Charge

We are empaneling a committee to lead the development of a long-term plan for the instrumentation and modes of observing at the MMT.

The near-term instrumentation situation at the MMT is:

* Binospec is expected to be commissioned in 2014 and the subsequent demand will likely lead to the scheduling of this capable instrument for a large fraction of the dark time.  Binospec will allow multi-slit spectroscopy, long-slit spectroscopy, and imaging over a 15' field in the 3900 A to 1 micron window, with flexible transfer between modes.

* Current dark/grey-time instruments include Blue Channel, Red Channel, Hectospec, MMTCam, and SPOL.

* Current bright-time instruments include the f/15 NGS topbox, f/15 LGS topbox, ARIES, MIRAC, PISCES, Hectochelle, MMTPol, SWIRC, and MAESTRO.  In addition, MMIRS and Clio are currently at Magellan but could be mounted at the MMT. However, several of these require additional development to reach full potential.

* The MMTO, CfA, and SO cannot reasonably plan to maintain all of these instruments for the coming decade.  We must prioritize our instrumentation suite in light of upcoming scientific opportunity, complementarity with other SO/CfA facilities, worldwide competition, and internal demand.

* Historically, the MMT has been operated in a “classical” scheduling mode or in a “service” or “mini-campaign” mode.  Limited remote observing has come and gone over the years for some capabilities.  Over the past 15 years, new science opportunities have been developed through the addition of non-classical observing modes (target of opportunity, queue observing, etc.) to many observatories.  These modes require increased coordination, more demand on observatory staff, and additional cost to the local staff of any observatory.  The future observing modes at the MMT need to be considered in light of the future instrumentation, future science opportunities, and costs.

We ask the committee to invite and review input from the SO and CfA observing communities and recommend to the SO, CfA, and MMTO directors on the following items:

1) Which of the current dark-time instruments (Blue channel, Red channel, Hectospec, SPOL) should be preserved for regular use in the Binospec era?  Describe the scientific justifications, expected costs, and suggested priority of these instruments.

2) Which of the current bright-time instruments should be prioritized for development and use in the next 5 years?  Describe the scientific justifications, expected costs, and suggested priority of these instruments.  Consideration should be given to the development timelines relative to that of worldwide competition.

 3) Are non-classical modes of observing (queue, remote, target-of-opportunity, etc.) required in order to realize the highest priority science aspirations of the MMT user community? If so, what should be developed or implemented to maximize the return on these modes?

4) Which scientific capabilities would best fit the MMT at the end of the decade?  What are leading concepts for new instrument development for the 2018 time scale? Descriptions of the scientific opportunities, potential instrument teams, costs, timelines, and expected competition should be given. 

The committee should have an open call for contributions from the Steward and CfA communities to support its answers to these questions.

We would appreciate a report from the committee to us by mid-February of 2014.


Charles Alcock, Buell T. Jannuzi, and Grant Williams