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1 Overview of W. M. Keck Observatory - page 5 / 10

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of Subaru, the Keck community exchanges for access to Subaru’s Suprime-Cam (wide-field optical imager) and MOIRCS (near-infrared imager and multi-object spectrograph).  Note also that Keck, Gemini, and Subaru have a number of technical collaborations and that the three observatories cooperate on Mauna Kea infrastructure.

To measure the use of Keck Observatory by the broad U.S. community, we have studied the identities and institutional affiliations of principal investigators (PIs) and co-investigators (Co-Is) on Keck proposals from semester 2006A through 2009A.  Principal investigators for WMKO observing programs were from 68 different institutions, 57 of which represent institutions not associated with Caltech, U.C., or U.H.  Similarly, the co-investigators on observing programs came from 123 different institutions after excluding Caltech, U.C., and U.H.  The total number of observing programs supported from semester 2006A through 2009A was 864.  Of these, 238 programs (28%) did not have a Caltech, U.C., or U.H. PI.  Similarly the NASA Keck programs from semesters 1996B through 2009A were conducted by 113 different PIs and 322 Co-Is at 122 institutions.

Given that Keck represents a significant fraction of U.S. peer-reviewed public assess to large telescopes, Keck is clearly an important tool for the broad U.S. community. When one considers also that the U.C., Caltech and U. Hawaii communities represent a significant fraction of U.S. ground-based observers, and the fact that they have collaborators throughout the country, Keck Observatory’s role in the U.S. ground-based system is further amplified. Keck has been participating in the system road-mapping activities organized by NOAO (e.g., Workshops on the O/IR Ground-based System). Keck’s Observer Newsletter and announcements are distributed to the broad U.S. optical/infrared observer community (including NASA and TSIP users), not only to Keck’s partner universities’ faculties.  It is important for WMKO, our community of astronomers, TSIP staff and the funding agencies to fully recognize and capitalize on Keck’s role as a crucial element of the U.S. ground-based system.

4 The Challenge of Maintaining the Scientific Productivity of Today’s Large Telescopes

The 6.5 to 10 meter optical/infrared telescopes of today are the workhorses that will enable the scientific productivity of the optical/infrared community until the next generation of large telescopes (GSMT and LSST) are fully commissioned for science operations toward the end of the coming decade or perhaps in the subsequent decade.  Even after the commissioning of GSMT, the 8-10 meter telescopes will play an important role for many years.  Therefore, keeping the large telescopes in the U.S. observing system properly instrumented and taking advantage of advances in adaptive optics, detector, coating and other instrumentation technologies are crucial to the community’s scientific productivity over the coming decade. The European Southern Observatory is currently spending at a dramatically higher level for instruments and adaptive optics systems on their Very Large Telescopes (VLT) than the sum of all spending in the U.S. system on comparable large telescopes.

Instrumentation for large telescopes has become more complex and ambitious due to the community-based scientific demand for sophisticated adaptive optics systems, enhanced multiplexing for wider-field multi-object spectroscopy at both infrared and optical wavelengths, and integral field unit spectroscopy with ambitious combinations of resolution and field of view.  

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