Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

By / par Patrick Hall (MSE Management Group Member)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2019)

New Project Scientist, Deputy Project Scientist, and Project Spokesperson

The MSE project welcomed a new Project Scientist in January and a Deputy Project Scientist in February. Prof. Jennifer Marshall (Texas A&M) was appointed Project Scientist, and Dr. Andreea Petric (IfA/CFHT) was appointed Deputy Project Scientist.

Prof. Jennifer Marshall is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University.  Prof. Marshall’s scientific interests include the detailed kinematics and chemistry of satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, particularly those that have been discovered by the Dark Energy Survey.  As an astronomical instrument builder she led Texas A&M’s involvement in the Dark Energy Survey, producing the calibration systems that enable the unprecedentedly precise photometric measurements produced by the survey, and also in the HETDEX project, building the VIRUS spectrographs.  She is the co-PI of GMACS, the wide field multi-object spectrograph that will be a first-light instrument for the Giant Magellan Telescope. She is also the director of the REU Site in Astronomical Research and Instrumentation at Texas A&M, which brings talented undergraduates from other universities to conduct scientific research with Texas A&M astronomers each summer.

Dr. Andreea Petric is the Institute for Astronomy’s (IfA) resident astronomer at CFHT, where she is the instrument scientist for the wide field optical imager MegaCam. Dr. Petric obtained her PhD from Columbia University and was a Postdoctoral Scholar at Caltech and a Science Fellow at the Gemini Observatory before joining IfA. Dr. Petric’s research focus is on the formation and evolution of galaxies. She uses X-ray to radio data to study the impact of mergers and AGN feedback on the star formation rates in nearby galaxies and to study the interstellar medium content of quasars to understand the relationship between type 1 and type 2 QSOs. 

Meanwhile, former MSE Project Scientist Dr. Alan McConnachie was appointed as Project Spokesperson, responsible for developing and promoting an international base of support for MSE among partners and prospective partners. The MSE MG thanks Alan for all his work as Project Scientist and looks forward to working with Prof. Marshall, Dr. Petric and Dr. McConnachie in their new roles on the MSE project.

New MSE Website

The MSE project has a newly redesigned website. Keep an eye on the website (and on ArXiv) for an update to the MSE Detailed Science Case, coming soon!

Massively Multiplexed Spectroscopy with MSE: Science, Project and Vision

A very successful MSE meeting was held Feb. 26-28 in Tucson, AZ, hosted by NOAO in collaboration with MSE and CFHT. Copies of all the presentations from the meeting are available here. The meeting agenda covered the full range of scientific and technical aspects of MSE, including plans for the Design Reference Survey and for the development of the MSE Science Platform and the MSE partnership model.

Among the over 90 participants were scientists involved in the full range of current and upcoming wide-field spectroscopic surveys including SDSS, LAMOST, 2dF S^5, DESI, 4MOST, WEAVE, PFS, and more. Several fruitful discussion sessions focused on sharing lessons learned from the planning and execution of these surveys.

The eight MSE Science Working Groups held breakout sessions and presented summaries of their scientific and programmatic discussions to the full meeting. Numerous white papers discussed at the meeting have now been submitted for consideration by the Astro2020 decadal survey in the US; for example on tests of dark matter, on stellar astrophysics and exoplanet science, on cosmology, and on quasar reverberation mapping.

The Canadian community is encouraged to submit MSE-related white papers for the Long Range Planning exercise now underway (expressions of interest due April 15, 2019; white papers due September 30, 2019).

MSE Management Group and CFHT Board and SAC Meetings

The MSE Management Group (MG) held its annual full-day face-to-face meeting in Waimea, Hawaii, on December 10, 2018, with representatives from existing partners and two observers from prospective partners: Adam Bolton (NOAO) and Darren DePoy (Texas A&M). The MG heard a remote presentation from Richard Barvainis (NSF) about the Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure initiative, and discussed how MSE can best propose to this opportunity. The MG also held a useful discussion of possible partnership models for the construction, and operations phases of the project. Further details of the draft partnership model can be found in the Tucson meeting presentation by MSE MG Chair Andrew Hopkins.

Last but not least, the CFHT Board approved the following statement at its December 2018 meeting: “The Board resolves that the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) is the scientific future of CFHT and affirms its intention to work towards an expanded MSE partnership to design, build and operate this transformational spectroscopic survey facility.” In addition, the CFHT Science Advisory Committee approved the following statement at its November 2018 meeting: “SAC endorses MSE as the scientific future of CFHT. SAC supports proceeding to the Preliminary Design Phase.”

CFI Proposal

Work led by U. Victoria Prof. Colin Bradley continues on a substantial request for University and industry partners to complete design work on many subsystems including the enclosure, the telescope structure, the fibre transmission system, the science calibration system, and others.

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