Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

By / par Patrick Hall (MSE Management Group Member)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2019)

Canada First to Sign MSE Preliminary Design Phase Statement of Understanding

On July 11, 2019, the MSE preliminary design phase statement of understanding was signed by Don Brooks, executive director of ACURA, after approval of this signature by the ACURA Institutional Council at its June meeting. The SoU was also signed the next day by Doug Simons, executive director of CFHT, and on July 22 by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research at Australian Astronomical Optics – Macquarie University. Signatures from France and from the University of Hawaii are expected soon.

The scope of work in the SoU begins with completing the preliminary design of MSE. Signatories to the SoU are under no financial obligation to MSE; the SoU merely specifies how any contributions that are made from signatories will be valued by the MSE project. ACURA’s role will be to represent Canada’s interests to the MSE Board during the preliminary design phase, and to be the recipient of ‘Beneficial Interest’ shares in the project from future contributions to MSE by Canada through peer-reviewed funding mechanisms such as CFI.

MSE in Long-Term Planning Exercises

An MSE Facility White Paper was submitted in September as part of the Canadian LRP 2020 process. MSE, and the future of Maunakea astronomy, featured in the discussions at the LRP Town Hall in Toronto in early November, and at other town halls that month.

In July, a facility white paper was submitted to the Astro2020 decadal planning exercise in the USA; the white paper is available as arXiv:1907.07192. In October, the MSE Project Office replied to an Request for Information for the Astro2020 Technical Readiness and Cost Estimate (TRACE) process. These requests were issued to only a select subset of facilities. A presentation to the Astro2020 panel is likely early in 2020.

In France, although the formal report of the Prospective planning exercise has not yet been released, consultations have concluded and we anticipate receiving the highest ranking (P0) for the facilities and infrastructure survey.

Meanwhile, a CFI proposal for approximately $20M plus $5M in-kind is on track to be submitted in January by Co-PIs Colin Bradley (UVic) and Pat Hall (York). If successful, this proposal will fund over half of the work necessary for the full preliminary design phase of MSE in both hardware and software. A several million dollar NSF Advanced Technological and Instrumentation proposal for science calibration system studies has also been submitted (PI Jennifer Marshall, Texas A&M and MSE Project Scientist).

Partnership Growth: MSE:UK Consortium Joins as Observer, Texas A&M as Partner

In July, a consortium of institutions from the UK joined the MSE Management Group with Observer status, The consortium is led from the UK Astronomy Technology Center (UKATC) in Edinburgh, part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), and includes the University of Cambridge, the University of Durham, University College London and the University of Oxford. “The science for MSE is amazing and a great fit to the UK community,” says MSE:UK management group representative Ruben Sanchez-Janssen (UKATC).

In September, Texas A&M University formally became an MSE participant by declaring its intention to contribute in-kind and cash resources to MSE during the preliminary design phase. Darren Depoy now serves as the MG member from Texas A&M.

In December, Joan Najita replaced Adam Bolton as the MG representative from NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory in the United States.

At its December meeting, the MG approved a Principles for Partnership Building document which outlines the current views of the MG on the core principles of the MSE partnership, and is intended to serve as a basis for discussion with prospective partners. More on this document in the next Cassiopeia.

Last but not least, MSE Management Group member Laura Ferrarese (NRC-Herzberg) will serve as Chair of the MG in 2020.

Project News: MSE Meeting May 2020 in France; Sam Barden Joins Project Office

Members of the MSE Science Team are now receiving monthly newsletters from the Project Office, and monthly science team telecons have begun for project status updates and science discussions. Science Team membership has now topped 400 members!

Plans are underway for the next MSE project-wide collaboration meeting to be held May 18-20, 2020 in Nice, France. Canadian researchers who have not previously been heavily involved with MSE may be able to obtain travel funding to the meeting by applying to the program described at this link.

Sam Barden will join the MSE Project Office as systems engineer in February 2020. In addition to his practical 4MOST design & build experience, Sam brings over 25 years of wide field fiber-fed spectroscopic knowledge, specifically in VPH gratings and fiber optics that he pioneered for astronomical applications. Sam’s credentials will be a tremendous asset for MSE in the preliminary design phase and beyond.

CASCA 2019 at McGill University and MSE EPO

The MSE Project Office team attended CASCA 2019 at McGill University in Montreal June 17-21, helping to staff a joint CFHT/MSE booth to answer community questions about the project. Also at the meeting, MSE featured at the CFHT Lunch, and a poster was presented on the MSE EPO programme by Kelly Lepo (McGill). Dr. Lepo and Dr. Jesse Rogerson (Canada Aviation & Space Museum) are Canada’s representatives on the MSE Education and Public Outreach committee, co-chaired by Dr. Lepo and Mary Beth Laychak (CFHT). The committee is charged with coordinating EPO activities sponsored by, and relating to, the MSE project on both the national and international level. Ongoing MSE EPO efforts will be exhibited at CASCA 2020 at York University in Toronto, May 25-28.

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