The first Semester of 1998 marks the beginning of the third year of the `Wide-field Instrumentation Plan'. The first element of this plan, the 1K x 1K IR camera for use with the AOB, KIR, is just finishing an extended run on the telescope. AOBIR as the AOB/KIR combination is known, has been on the telescope for 39 nights producing diffraction limited images at K (and even occaissonally at J!) over its 36" field. While more work remains to be done on KIR to increase its effiicency when observing bright objects, it represents a very successful start on the new instrumentation plan.
Our highest priority is now the CFH12k camera which will replace the UH8k mosaic beginning in July of this year. Work is well along on the camera and as this is being written (January 15) we are selecting the first 4 MIT/LL CCDs for the camera. While this camera will be a major improvement over UH8k in many ways, it is still only an interim solution to the needs for wide-field imaging at CFHT.
The Board of Directors, at its recent meeting in December, approved the full appropriation needed for Megacam. The Megacam project includes a CCD mosaic camera which will cover almost 1 sq. degree on the sky using CCDs with sensitivity down to 3500 A. It also includes a new wide-field corrector and image motion compensator to produce 0.5" images on the sky over this large field. Megacam is being built by a consortium which includes CEA (Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique) and OPM (Observatoire de Paris-Meudon) in France, HIA/DAO (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics/Dominion Astrophysical Observatory) in Canada and CFHT. Megacam is scheduled to see first light in June of 2001.
There were other significant developments at this recent Board meeting. The Board acknowledged the scientific need for a wide-field IR mosaic camera and the Agencies will be working on identifying the money and other resources needed to build this camera as the ideal complement to Megacam. It is expected that work on such a camera would begin around 2000 when 2K x 2K IR detectors become available and the end of work on Megacam is in sight.
The Board also recognized the need to start developing plans for the replacement of the current telescope by the year 2010. They decided to replace the SAC-appointed committee looking at this issue with one which will report directly to the Board. The first priority of this new committee will be to identify the scientific drivers and the needs of the Canadian, French and Hawaiian communities beginning 15 years from now.
It has been over 13 years since CFHT was last reviewed by an external visiting committee and the Board has formed an Advisory committee comprised of very high level external experts who will be visiting CFHT this spring. This committee is charged with the task of providing expert advice to the Board and Agencies on how, beginning in the year 2001, CFHT could be operated on an annual core operating budget of $5,000,000 (1996 US$), while continuing to conduct a scientific programme of the highest quality that is responsive to the priorities etsablished by its user communities through the Scientific Advisory Council and Board of Directors.
Finally, the Board approved a process to begin looking for replacements for Pierre Couturier whose term as Executive Director ends in August 1999.
We feel that CFHT will have a strong set of instrumentation for the beginning of the next century which exploits the strengths of our telescope and site, and which also fits well with the capabilities of the four 8 and 10 meter telescopes which will be operational on Mauna Kea at that time. We are excited and optimistic about the longer term future of the Observatory and believe that the strong and highly productive collaborations between our three communities, which make CFHT a unique astronomical facility for both our users and our staff, will be maintained.