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The January-April 2016 observing schedule has been posted, along with program titles.
Some improvements funded by the Smithsonian Institution are currently taking place at the MMTO. Improvements to the summit road, a new roof and snow melt system for the MMT enclosure, upgrades to the HVAC system, and an upgraded dock lift are all in the works. The new roof will be completed in November and safety ties will be added in the spring. The HVAC upgrades are expected to be finished in November. Work will begin in December on the lift project. Completion of the summit road project is expected in spring 2016.
Using data from the MMTO's Hectospec, astronomers have identified a rare specimen of massive star known as a Wolf-Rayet WN/C. Located in an area of active star formation in the nearby Andromeda Galaxy, the star is believed to be in a short-lived transitional state between two longer phases of its stellar life and, therefore, difficult to catch. While some stars of this type have been found in our own Milky Way, this is the first to have been discovered in Andromeda. Read more about this serendipitous finding here.
The MMTO has openings for two queue observers (posting# A20303). More details and an online application can be found here.
The Telescope Data Center announces the availability of a web based Exposure Time Calculator for Hectospec and the upcoming Binospec. It can be found here. New features include an option for the 1000 line grating on Binospec, as well as a better moonlight model. Questions or suggestions regarding the calculator can be sent to Michael Kurtz.
Now that summer shutdown tasks have been completed and the MMTO has reopened, staff have resumed working at the UA Steward Observatory Sunnyside Coating Facility in preparation for the realuminization of the primary mirror scheduled for summer 2016. Currently, the work includes evaluating new aluminization hardware and software, including redesigned welder control boxes and automated process control software. Small Chamber (0.4m) experiments have recently been completed; three Large Chamber (2m) tests are planned for September. The results of this work will be used in a full-scale aluminization test at the F.L. Whipple Observatory Base Camp prior to the actual re-aluminization.
Read commentary by Dr. Scott Kenyon, Senior Astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, regarding the exciting mission to Pluto! The Smithsonian Institution and the UA jointly operate the MMTO.
The final observing schedule for August 25-December 31 has been posted, along with Program Titles.
The MMT and Magellan Infrared Spectrograph (MMIRS), commissioned at the MMTO in 2009, has returned from the Magellan-Clay telescope in Chile. It will be available as part of our suite of instruments later this year. More information can be found here.
Researchers at the CfA have released a new paper studying the halo of our Milky Way, using data from the MMT's Hectospec of more than five thousand stars. The global motions of the stars help decode information about the mass, structure and formation of the Milky Way. They find a strange "discontinuity" region about 30,000 light years away, which may be attributable to a star stream, an association of orbiting stars that may once have been a globular cluster or dwarf galaxy that has been torn apart by tidal forces. Read more here.