36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 14 Future Missions
Poster I, Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 4:00-7:00pm, Exhibition Hall 1A

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[14.10] Long-range Plans for the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility

A.T. Tokunaga, S.J. Bus, J. Rayner, E.V. Tollestrup (Inst. for Astronomy, Univ. of Hawaii)

The NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) is a 3-meter optical/IR telescope dedicated to NASA-related programs of mission support and basic solar system research. All of the funding for IRTF operations comes from the Planetary Astronomy Program.

The IRTF is unique in providing NASA with a dedicated telescope for mission support. Its aperture is sufficient for many kinds of solar system observations. While large telescopes like the Keck allow astronomers to push the limits of sensitivity, the IRTF provides the ability to carry out complementary studies on brighter objects. In addition, the IRTF provides the planetary community with access to one of the world’s best observing sites, the summit of Mauna Kea. The user base of the telescope has been expanding in recent years due to new instrumentation, visible imaging capability, and remote observing. The IRTF also provides opportunities for instrument development and training of students and post-docs, thus helping ensure a solid foundation for the next generation of planetary scientists.

A long-range plan is being developed that will position the IRTF to be a powerful facility for mission support well beyond the Cassini mission. A refurbished IRTF would have: (1) Optimized instruments for planetary science that provide high-spectral resolution, wide wavelength coverage, and diffraction-limited imaging capabilities. (2) An adaptive optics system that produces extremely high Strehl ratio images, and includes an extended object wave-front sensor. (3) Focused programs on mission support, NEOs, asteroids, and comets. (4) Remote observing. (5) Rapid response to needs of the planetary community. (6) Flexible scheduling. (7) Daytime observing close to the Sun.

We acknowledge the support of NASA Cooperative Agreement no. NCC 5-538 with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Planetary Astronomy Program.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://irtfweb.ifa.hawaii.edu. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.