Palomar Observatory

In this issue

No. 1
Fall 2018

Welcome to the Palomar Observer Newsletter!

By Lin Yan

Since 2012, the Palomar 200-inch user community has grown into a partnership with four different institutions. With the start of this quarterly newsletter, we aim to bring together our diverse user community and provide an effective communication medium on the latest developements at the Observatory, the telescope, and all things relevant to P200 observers.

COO Directorship Transition

By Andy Boden

Many of you know that Caltech Optical Observatories (COO) is the administrative home for Palomar Observatory on the Caltech campus. What you may not yet know is that, as of 01 May 2018, COO is under new management: longtime Director Prof. Shri Kulkarni has passed the COO Director’s duties to Prof. Jonas Zmuidzinas. Shri served as COO Director for 12 years (2006 – 2018), and guided COO and Palomar to many important successes. Principal among them is the highly successful Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) arc of projects—culminating with the recent commissioning and dedication of the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). Shri has stepped down as COO Director to focus on ZTF and related projects full time—and as such he will remain a prominent member of the Observatory community. I know I speak for all of us when I express our deep appreciation for Shri’s long and distinguished leadership and service to Palomar Observatory and our community.

New COO Director, Prof. Jonas Zmuidzinas. (Caltech)

Jonas is the Merle Kingsley Professor of Physics at Caltech, and comes to the COO Directorship with an extensive background in instrumentation development, experimental physics, and scientific leadership. In addition to his Caltech academic duties, Jonas has served as JPL’s Chief Technologist and as the Director of the JPL Microdevices Laboratory; CCAT Project Scientist; and on instrument teams for Hershel, SOFIA, and CSO. Jonas and Shri have been working closely together with Observatory management and our Palomar partner representatives to effect a smooth leadership transition. This is an exciting time at Palomar Observatory: with new instruments arriving, being commissioned, and in development on all our telescopes; recent commitments for continued partnership among all our major partners; and exciting scientific opportunities ahead in the coming era of transient astronomy, GAIA, and LSST. Under Jonas’ leadership the Observatory management team looks forward to working with our community in realizing the Palomar’s potential in the coming decade.

Palomar Observer Frequently Asked Questions

By Lin Yan

Various operations staff at the Observatory have put together an observer's checklist and also compiled an extensive document on frequently asked questions. This document is now on the Palomar Observatory website FAQ page. It addresses a wide variety of questions, from how to apply telescope times, to changing instrument setups, to the code for entering the observatory security gate.

If you ever have any questions related to your observing run, please go to this document and find your answers. We would be happy to include any new questions plus answers to this document. So please contact Lin Yan ( and let her know.

The Palomar 200-inch Down-Time This Fall

By Lin Yan

Palomar staff and the freshly-aluminized 200-inch mirror, 2016. (Palomar/Caltech)

The Observatory is planning major P200 maintenance work this fall, scheduled from November 5 to December 14, 2018. The complete schedule has been announced to the community on the P200 observing schedule online.

The engineering work includes recoating the primary mirror, refurbishing the prime focus cage, and servicing various components, such secondary mirrors and support assemblies.

The P200 primary was last recoated in November 2016. Therefore, the recoating planning for this fall will definitely improve the sensitivity of the Big Eye!

Presentations from Palomar Science Meeting 2018

By Lin Yan

Materials (slides, live recordings) from the Palomar Science Meeting 2018 are now available online at the meeting's website. The online material also includes the commemoration on July 10, 2018 with the three keynote public lectures by author Ronald Florence (Creating "The Perfect Machine"), Robert Kirshner of the Moore Foundation (Accelerating Discovery) and Shri Kulkarni from Caltech (The Zwicky Transient Facility Dedication).

In addition, four beautiful promotional posters of the Palomar Observatory and telescopes (by Annie Mejía) are now available for purchase at the Palomar gift shop and the Caltech bookstore.

Online Discussion Platform (Slack Channel)

By Lin Yan

To facilitate the community discussions on questions related to data reductions and observations, Professor Marla Geha from Yale University has created a Slack channel for users from the four partnership institutions. Please click this link and join the online group. This platform allows you to post comments, figures and papers. It is a quick way to get responses from other users. Slack channel is easy to use, but if you have any questions, please read the tutorial page after you have signed up the p200users slack channel.

Questions? We've answered many common visiting, media, and academic questions in our public FAQ page.
Please share your feedback on this page at the COO Feedback portal.

Palomar Observer 1
Last updated: 17 September 2018 LY/AFB/ACM