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The New York State Telescope Project

The New York Astronomical Corporation (NYAC) was chartered in 1968 with the goal of providing access to a telescope to the astronomical community of New York. At the October 2008 business meeting, the NYAC board reaffirmed their desire to pursue a world-class telescope project. The telescope will provide access to the entire NY astronomical community, enable front-line research, excite and train the next generation of students in the STEM disciplines, and stimulate public interest in science.

Progress Updates

In January 2010 the Telescope Committee released a survey to the NY astronomical community to determine science drivers and desired telescope properties. At the April 2010 meeting at Colgate, Stefi Baum reported on the results of the survey (posted to the NYAC web page). The survey results indicate that the community favors a large general purpose optical/near-IR telescope which will support a broad range of science and enable front-line research by faculty, post-docs, and students. The Telescope Committee also drafted a Call for White papers which was approved by the board of directors on August 3, 2010 (posted to the NYAC web page). The Call specified that letters of intent were due Oct 1, 2010 and 10-page papers were due Jan 10, 2011. Three letters of intent were received. At the Oct 22 telescope session at RPI the desired properties of a committee to review the white papers was discussed. It was decided that the committee should have broad representation and expertise and should avoid conflicts of interest. The following template for the committee was established: 2 members from Associate Members, 2 from PhD granting universities, 1 from NY industry, 1 with NY State government experience (e.g., former politician, lobbyist, college development office), 1 external (to NY) science pundit, 1 external telescope/instrument pundit. A call for nominations to the committee was issued and Chris O’Dea then assembled a committee whose membership was approved by the NYAC Board. Carl Hayden agreed to chair the committee. Guidelines for the review process were established (posted below).

Three proposals were received as expected on Jan 10, 2011 and are posted below. The telescope review committee (see below for membership) reviewed the three proposals and submitted a report to the NYAC board of directors on June 6, 2011.The report of the telescope proposal review committee was accepted by the NYAC board of directors on 7/27/11 by a vote of 12 in favor, 4 abstentions, with 2 not voting. 3 committees were formed to carry forward the recommendations of the Hayden committee – Rose Finn (Telescope Consortia), Fred Walter (Ways and Means), and Stefi Baum (Technical Design). The 3 committee chairs plus Tom Sebring became the “Super Committee” which is working to define a path towards obtaining funding for a 12-m telescope for the use of the NY State astronomical community. Accomplishments so far include awarding purchase orders for four technical design studies (as described in Tom's talk) and the Science Driver Workshop. The Consortium Committee has decided not to pursue consortium involvement for now and has put such efforts on hold as we pursue the 12-m.

At the Telescope Science Driver meeting Oct 2012 there was a review of the preliminary telescope design (Sebring) and four invited science talks on Exoplanets and Life in the Universe (Metchev), Star Formation and Stellar Evolution (Kastner), Galaxy Formation and Evolution (Blanton), and Cosmology and Fundamental Physics (Hui). Discussion focused on potential first light instrumentation.  There was tentative agreement that the following three instrumental capabilities would allow compelling science – high R spectroscopy, high resolution imaging with an IFU, moderately wide field mulit-object spectroscopy. 
Four technical design studies were started by four prominent contractors who have done telescope work before. The technical studies for the Dome, Facility, Telescope Mount, and Primary Mirror Assembly will better define the design and narrow the uncertainty in the cost estimates. The cost of the studies to NYAC is $45k. The contractors will make additional “in kind” contributions.  We will get 4 individual reports. The technical reports and the science case will be used to construct a “Green Book.”  It would be desirable to have a solid draft by end of year, with publication early next year.
The effort to obtain donations from institutions has been partially successful, with several more institutions committed. A reminder will go out to those not contributing. The next steps are to prepare materials for the fundraising. This will include the Green Book, a colorful pamphlet, and a ppt presentation.  The pamphlet  should be accessible to laymen. NY astronomers could perhaps do some colloquia to raise awareness among other NY astronomers. NYAC members will be in a position to see state representatives and approach foundations.  It was suggested that we investigate micro-funding possibilities through kick starter sites and that we design a logo and make some t-shirts, caps, etc. O'Donoghue pointed out that ASNY activities other than the telescope initiative are funded each years by the dues. O'Donoghue told the group that the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) would be interested in having consortia purchase time as they move toward remote and robotic observing.
O'Dea and the Super Committee will discuss options for moving forward. O'Dea requested a vote from the Board to approve what has been done and to continue effort without commitment at this time of additional NYAC funds in the bank. Motion was made and passed.

Science Case: Subsequent to the science driver workshop several people generously volunteered to write up white papers on 5 primary science topics. These are:
Stan Metchev (SUNY Stony Brook)  “Expolanets and Life”
Joel Kastner (RIT) “Star Formation and Stellar Evolution”
Ari Maller (CUNY Citytech) & Sukanya Chakrabarti (RIT) “Galaxy Formation and Evolution”
Sangeeta Malhotra & James Rhoads (Arizona State)  “Cosmic Dawn — First Galaxies and Reionization”
Fred Walter (SUNY Stony Brook) “Variable and Transient Phenomena”
The first 3 papers have been completed and the remaining 2 are in preparation.

Technical Design Studies: Under the leadership of Tom Sebring, the 4 preliminary technical design studies have been completed. The goals of the studies were to identify the major technical challenges, vet the design, improve cost estimates, and identify major risk areas.
Primary Mirror System – Exelis, Rochester, NY
Telescope Mount – Ingersoll Machine Tool, Rockford, IL
Dome – Dynamic Structures Ltd. Vancouver, BC
Facility – M3 Engineering & Technology, Tuscon, AZ
All studies found the preliminary designs to be technically feasible. The studies of the facility, dome, and mount are within credible distance of initial estimates and concepts. However, significant additional work is needed to bring segment design and fabrication concepts in line.

Preliminary fundraising: The NYAC Board had previously authorized spending $50k of existing NYAC funds and fundraising from NYAC institutions, requesting $2000 from Associate Members and $10,000 from Full Members. A total of $45k was raised from 11 NYAC institutions. A total of about $75k has been spent on the technical studies, including the effort s by Tom Sebring to write the requirements for the studies and coordinate with the 4 industrial partners.

Next: The committee will put together a “green book” which will contain the science case and preliminary design, and a discussion of the benefits that would accrue to NY State. Once the green book is completed, the next round of fund raising will commence.



Kickoff Meeting April 2009

Chris O'Dea Presentation [pptx]
Minutes [pdf]

Meeting October 2009

Peter Wehinger's Presentation [ppt]

Additional Documents

Survey Results [pdf]
Call for White Papers [pdf]

Meeting October 2010

Chris O'Dea Update [pdf]
Letter of Intent Presentations

Minutes of the NY State Telescope Discussion [txt]

Telescope Proposals

ALPACA [pdf]
ATNY [pdf]
Gemini [pdf]

Review Committee

Fred Chromey (Vassar)                                                                                                                                            
Rose Finn (Siena)                                                                                                                                                    
James Graham (Director, Dunlop Institute, Univ. of Toronto) 
Carl Hayden (Chair, SUNY Board of Trustees) Chair 
Rob Kennicutt (Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge Univ.)                                                                             
Frank Suits (IBM, Thomas J. Watson Research Center) 
Yervant Terzian (Cornell, Director, NY Space Grant) 
Jim Zavislan (U of Rochester)

Guidelines for Review Committee [pdf]

Report of the Review Committee [pdf]

Meeting October 2011

Minutes [pdf]

Additional Documents 2012

One page description of the New York State Observatory [pdf]
Presentation on the New York State Observatory [pdf]