Archive for November, 2008

Instrument Change Movie!

At the MMT we do a lot of juggling of our three secondary mirrors & our current suite of 13 instruments. Over the last couple of years we have become so efficient at doing secondary/instrument changes that it is a task that is normally never seen by the astronomers as everything is completed before they arrive at the telescope. To give you all a small insight into the effort it takes to reconfigure the telescope we have put together this little movie for your viewing pleasure. The movie shows one day in the life of the telescope day crew as we change from a setup of f/5 secondary with Hecto to the f/15 deformable secondary and CLIO.

For best viewing have your computer speakers on .. Enjoy!


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Mysterious changes and weather seen on distant dwarf planet

Signs of Weather Seen on Dwarf Planet

Strange weather on the icy dwarf planet Eris could be causing changes that scientists are now seeing at the methane-ice surface of this distant object in our solar system.

A team of researchers examined data on Eris collected from the MMT Observatory in Arizona.  They specifically looked at concentrations of methane ice based on light-reflection and absorption information. 

To read this article and find out their results, go here.

Mysterious changes seen on distant dwarf planet

The surface of the largest known ‘plutoid’ appears to have changed in recent years, according to new measurements of how elements are layered on its icy surface. But astronomers cannot explain the cause of the apparent change.

Eris is the largest known object beyond the orbit of Neptune, weighing nearly a third more than Pluto. It travels on an elongated path around the Sun that takes about 560 years to complete.

By studying different wavelengths – or ‘bands’ – of light in Eris’s spectrum using the 6.5-metre MMT observatory in Arizona, the researchers concluded that the concentration of nitrogen seems to increase with depth.

To read the NewScientist article, click here.

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MMT October Statistics

Time Summary  
Percentage of time scheduled for observing   93.7
Percentage of time scheduled for engineering   3.2
Percentage of time scheduled for sec/instr change   3.1
Percentage of time lost to weather       18.7
Percentage of time lost to instrument       0.1
Percentage of time lost to telescope       3.2
Percentage of time lost to general facility     0.0
Percentage of time lost to environment (non-weather)   0.0
Percentage of time lost           22.0
Breakdown of hours lost to instrument: 0.5 (hecto server problems)    
Breakdown of hours lost to telescope: 10.8 (Secondary, rotator, primary, tracking)

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CLIO imaging of Fomalhaut


Thermal imaging observations of Fomalhaut using the Clio 3-5 micron camera.

Thermal imaging observations of Fomalhaut using the Clio 3-5 micron camera.


Last week high profile publications hit the news about the direct detections of exoplanets around two stars, Fomalhaut & HR8799 (see ‘Optical Images of an Exosolar Planet 25 Light Years from Earth’ Kalas et al and ‘Direct Imaging of Multiple Planets Orbiting the Star HR 8799’ Marois et al and all major news sites). 

Fomalhaut was observed by a team at the MMT using the Clio 3-5 micron camera (PI Phil Hinz) in December 2006 as part of a survey led by Eric Mamajek (University of Rochester). The uniquely high sensitivity thermal imaging observation of Fomalhaut obtained show that there are no planets above 2 Jupiter masses inside the dust ring imaged by HST. The open loop images had 0.5 arcsecond seeing at 2.0 to 2.5 airmasses, which the MMT AO system turned into 0.15 arcsecond diffraction limited 5 micron images. The images did not include the location of the newly announced planet, Fomalhaut b. These observations do, however, rule out any other large planets on distance scales similar to our Solar System. For further information see ‘MMT /AO 5 Micron Imaging Constraints on the Existence of Giant Planets Orbiting Fomalhaut at ~13 – 40AU’ Kenworthy et al.

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The ‘MMT and Magellan Infrared Spectrograph’

MMIRS is the next new instrument that will be arriving for commissioning at the MMT. The ‘MMT and Magellan InfraRed Spectrograph’ is a wide field near-IR imager and slit mask multi-object spectrograph being built by the team at the CfA led by Brian McLeod.  It has two basic operational modes:


  • 7′ x 7′ FOV
  • 0.2″ pixels
  • Y, J, H & K wavelength coverage


  • Multi-slit (4′ x 7′ FOV)
  • or longslit (7′ length and 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 0.8, 1.2, 1.8, 2.4″ widths)
  • J, H, K @ R = 3000
  • JH & HK @ R = 1200

Current delivery/commissioning date is March 2009. For more information regarding MMIRS please contact Morag Hastie (mhastie ‘at’ mmto ‘dot’ org). 


MMIRS in the lab at the CPD in Cambridge undergoing thermal testing.

MMIRS in the lab at the CPD in Cambridge undergoing thermal testing.

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Canoa Road Underpass Closure

Effective Monday, November 3, 2008.

The underpass at Canoa Road is scheduled to close for approximately 6 -7 weeks (until mid-December). Southbound drivers on I-19 will need to use the Arivaca exit (exit 48) and then double back north on the east frontage road to reach Elephant Head Road and continue on to the FLWO base camp.

Motorists heading north to Tucson on the east frontage road should still be able to access the1-19 northbound ramp.


Please contact Karen Erman-Myres at 520-670-5703 for more information if any questions.

Map for alternative route to MMT during underpass closure.

Alternative route to the MMT during the underpass closure – use Exit 48.

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