Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update


By/par Patrick Hall, MSE Advisory Group Member
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2016)

Ahead of the pack

The Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer project is moving steadily toward a conceptual design review in mid-2017, followed by a cost review of the conceptual design. Soil load-bearing tests at CFHT are scheduled to begin this month to verify the weight limits for a rejuvenated telescope.

Internationally, the high scientific priority of the ability to conduct massive spectroscopic surveys of faint targets has been highlighted in the past few months in both the USA and Europe, which bodes well for bringing additional partners into MSE.

In the USA, NOAO and LSST released a study of the resources needed to accomplish LSST-enabled science cases (see arxiv:1610.01661) The #1 recommendation, in full, was:

“Develop or obtain access to a highly multiplexed, wide-field optical multi-object spectroscopic capability on an 8m-class telescope, preferably in the Southern Hemisphere. This high priority, high-demand capability is not currently available to the broad US community. Given the long lead time to develop any new capability, there is an urgent need to investigate possible development pathways now, so that the needed capabilities can be available in the LSST era. Possibilities include implementing a new wide-field, massively multiplexed optical spectrograph on a Southern Hemisphere 6-8m telescope, e.g., as in the Southern Spectroscopic Survey Instrument, a project recommended for consideration by the DOE’s Cosmic Visions panel ( and; open access to the PFS instrument on the Subaru telescope in order to propose and execute new large surveys; and alternatively, joining an international effort to implement a wide-field spectroscopic survey telescope (e.g., the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer at CFHT or a future ESO wide-field spectroscopic facility) if the facility will deliver data well before the end of the LSST survey.”

In Europe, the “ESO Future of Multi-Object Spectroscopy Working Group Report” (see also this announcement) concluded that

“a large aperture (10-12m class) optical spectroscopic survey telescope … could enable transformational progress in several broad areas of astrophysics, and may constitute an unmatched ESO capability for decades.” The report went on to recommend starting work on what MSE will be delivering next year: “…a conceptual design study aimed at completing a more rigorous, broadly-based science case in the context of a costed technical design. ESO …, noting the financial challenges, may wish to consider establishing links with other international communities …”.

Progress in Canada

Progress on MSE in Canada includes the following:

  • A contract with EDS for Enclosure design studies.
  • Conceptual design studies of the Fibre Transmission System at NRC-HAA.
  • An expected contract with Fibretech Optica for fibre splicing tests.
  • Submissions to the CFI Infrastructure Fund (PI: Venn) and the
    Ontario Research Fund (PI: Balogh) for construction of a prototype
    high resolution spectrograph and development of a science software
    system for integrated design of surveys, operations, and data analysis.
    The CFI proposal team attended a face-to-face Expert Committee evaluation meeting in Toronto in late November, and proposal results should be known in April 2017.

MSE governance

As the MSE project matures, an MSE Management Group (MG) and an MSE Science Advisory Group (SAG) have been constituted. The groups have 2 members each from Canada, France, China, and Hawaii, and 1 member each from India, Australia and Spain.

The MG is charged with making recommendations to the Project Office regarding scheduling, budgeting, partnership opportunities, etc.

The SAG is advisory to the Management Group, and will respond to all requests for scientific recommendations from this group. It will therefore provide high-level guidance to the MSE Project Scientist (Alan McConnachie, NRC-HAA) on the science‐related development of MSE. For example, the SAG is expected to provide advice in 2017 regarding science priorities that will feed into the conceptual design cost review.

Greg Fahlman (NRC-HAA) and Patrick Hall (York) represent Canada in the MG, and Kim Venn (Victoria) and Sarah Gallagher (Western) represent Canada in the SAG.

The MG had its first face-to-face meeting on December 12 in Waimea, and the Chair of the MG, Jean-Gabriel Cuby (Marseille), joined the Project Office in presenting a progress report to the CFHT board on December 15.

Last but not least

Congratulations to Alan, Isla, and Callum McConnachie on the newest addition to their family: Alexander Edward McConnachie.

And best wishes for the new year to CASCA members, from all involved with MSE.

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