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Report of the Astro-E2 Users' Group, 2005 March 11

Report of the ASTRO-E2 Users' Group
11 March 2005

The ASTRO-E2 Users' Group (AUG) met 14-15 Feb 2005 at GSFC. Members of the ASTRO-E2 GOF and the instrument teams presented overviews of the mission. The AUG then met in Executive Session, followed by discussion of possible recommendations with the ASTRO-E2 team.

Attendees: Mark Bautz (ex-officio, XIS), Liz Blanton, Kazik Borkowski, Nancy Brickhouse (chair), Jack Hughes (SWG), Martin Laming, Karen Leighly, Greg Madejski (ex-officio, HXD), Frits Paerels, Mike Wise

We note that Rich Kelly (XRS) and Kai-Wing Chan (XRT) were added to AUG as ex-officio members after the meeting and did not attend the Executive Session.

I. Presentations.

Mission and XRS overview - Rich Kelley
XRT - Status, performance & calibration plan - Kai-Wing Chan
XIS - Status, performance & calibration plan - Mark Bautz
HXD - Status, performance & calibration plan - Greg Madejski
XRS Calibration status & plan - Jean Cottam
Mission Operations and Data Flow overview - Koji Mukai
Data processing and user software - Ken Ebisawa
Astro-E2 Archive - Lorella Angelini
Profit: a prototype spectral analysis GUI demonstration - Randall Smith
Astro-E2 Press Plan - Ilana Harrus
GO Program - Cycle 1 process, results, Cycle 2 plan - Koji Mukai

These presentations are available here.

II. General Comments.

The AUG would like to thank the presenters, and especially Koji Mukai, for a well-organized session of talks and discussion.

The launch of ASTRO-E2 is now expected sometime late May to June 2005. The launch date will hopefully be set by the end of March after which the in-flight calibration program will be finalized. Launch in May may also allow observation of Comet Temple I during the Deep Impact spacecraft flyby, an excellent opportunity to publicize the ASTRO-E2 mission.

We are generally pleased with efforts on pipeline processing and calibration. The ASTRO-E2 GOF has made strong efforts to build communication with their Japanese counterparts, to develop standardized pipeline and calibration products, and to minimize duplication (and diffuseness) of effort. ISAS will create the "first FITS files" from the telemetry data, but both ISAS and GSFC plan to process all data using identical software and standardized calibration products. While this means some duplication of effort, the commitment to maintain standard products is commendable. We understand that the instrument teams also plan to use standard products and software. We encourage them to do this as much as possible, as it will help ensure that problems are caught and resolved early.

III. Specific Recommendations.

1. Public availability of data.

The current agreement among the teams is that all data will become public one year after the end of Phase Ia (that is, one year and seven months after launch). There is not currently an agreement to make any data public before that time. We strongly urge the ASTRO-E2 team to release some public data as soon as practical. Several data sets with enough diversity (point/extended sources, hard/soft sources), to be decided by the SWG, would help to improve the success of the mission for several reasons:

(a.) The Cycle 2 proposal deadline is expected to be about 1.2 years after launch. (A good estimate of the coolant supply will be possible shortly after launch, at which point the decision on the length of Cycle 2 can be revisited.) The proposal deadline for Cycle 2 will be pushed out as far as possible which will allow more observations to be taken; nevertheless, it seems likely that for the Cycle 2 proposals, the SWG members will have seen numerous data sets, whereas the non-SWG observers will have seen no SWG data, and only about half of the Guest Observers will have seen their own data. The resulting disadvantage to non-SWG proposers for Cycle 2 is unacceptably large compared with SWG members.

This is not simply an issue of fairness. Non-SWG members will write better proposals for Cycle 2 if they have better information. The larger community needs experience with real data. Real data stimulates the imagination. Cycle 2 will be the last chance to propose for the XRS, so all proposals need to be the best possible. Furthermore, ASTRO-E2 will have a big impact on building the case for Constellation-X, so it is very important for the community at large to participate in this mission as fully as possible.

(b.) Since data analysis will require innovation (e.g. spectral/spatial analysis, joint analysis with Chandra images, new spectral range for high resolution spectroscopy) making public data available will increase the contributions to analysis from the entire X-ray community. The science from both missions will be enhanced from joint analysis.

(c.) Publicity for the mission will be much improved if some public data sets are released.

(d.) Increasing visibility in the X-ray astronomy community not only by doing exciting science but also by increasing the number of Guest Observers, will help to make the case for continuing/extending the mission during the Senior Review.

The public availability of data is the most urgent issue that we discussed. We strongly feel that the overall success of the mission and its legacy depends critically on the engagement of the entire X-ray community. The public availability of data sufficiently early in the mission lifetime is a key toward achieving this goal.

2. Calibration.

Mark Bautz noted that in-flight calibration is needed for the XIS, especially at low energy. Jean Cottam also noted that simultaneous observations with XMM or Chandra are needed to determine the global effective area. We recommend close collaboration between missions for cross-calibration, especially if simultaneous observations are needed.

We would like to understand better how the calibration, particularly for the psf, will be done and communicated to users, and in particular how users should track changes in calibration. This is not critical now, but should be documented by next year's meeting. [Details?]

The instrument teams have access to proprietary data, including GO data, as needed for calibration and performance monitoring. We agree with this policy and do not believe a formal agreement is necessary.

Because of the launch delay, certain calibration observations might need to be changed. We recommend that the best available calibration targets be used, even if these are Guest Observer targets. Negotiating in advance with affected Guest Observers should resolve data rights issues.

3. Software.

Ken Ebisawa noted that some specific analysis may not be supported, e.g. spatial-spectral analysis of clusters of galaxies. In order to encourage users to find creative solutions to this problem, the GOF should support users in these efforts. We recommend that the team to make public the parameter files, calibration files, and ray tracing program as soon as feasible.

Software developed for ASTRO-E2 will rely on FTOOLS and updated, but familiar, products such as XSELECT. By mid-March the formats and keywords for GO products will be determined and released to the CIAO team to investigate compatibility. The need to support, learn and maintain multiple software packages is a burden on Guest Observers, especially at small institutions. To minimize this, we encourage the software development team to work closely with the CIAO [and SAS?] team[s] to ensure that file formats and standards are compatible among the different systems. We support efforts to coordinate with other software development groups as much as possible.

Randall Smith presented a demonstration of PROFIT, a spectral analysis GUI which aids in the identification of spectral lines. This tool appears useful for initial modeling and we support the continuation of development, with the understanding that it is not intended to replace more accurate spectral fitting tools.

4. Publicity

Since Japan leads this mission, Japan will also lead on some press releases (e.g. "First Light"). The US role needs to be clearly defined. We recommend that the US and Japan agree on the press plan well before launch.

5. Lessons from Cycle 1 Review Process

Despite the difficulty of obtaining reviewers, the GOF felt the reviewers did a good job. There was a glitch in the proposal distribution to reviewers such that they did not have a long lead time to read proposals --- this should be straightened out by the next review. We also understand that PIs were not directly notified until nearly a month after the target list was posted. While some PIs were notified by email when the target list was posted, others were not. This notification email list should be matched against the proposers' list.

Some of the review panels, especially the Galactic panels, felt that the diversity of topics per panel was too large. While we did not come up with a better solution, we recommend that a different panel structure for Cycle 2 be considered, if possible.

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This file was last modified on Monday, 14-Aug-2006 13:41:37 EDT

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