Dear LCO collaborators,
There is light at the end of the tunnel! Literally said, we soon return to the light of the stars. In practice, we go from phase A to phase B (see definition of phases on the LCO website). For this return to be brilliant, we will have to put a lot of spirit and will.
Today, Ministerio de Salud reported 1,684 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 462,991 since the start of the pandemic in the country. In Coquimbo Region, according to authorities, there are 10,588 total accumulated cases, 39 of them new and 355 active, with 211 deaths in total.
Due to the decrease in active cases in the region, since Monday, September 28, the communes of La Serena and Coquimbo have moved to the Transition Phase, which implies that the quarantine only applies on weekends and some face-to-face work can be resumed while maintaining the corresponding sanitary measures.
The change of phase allows us to advance in the stages of reopening the Las Campanas Observatory, from phase A to phase B. This implies an increase in the number of staff working in the mountains in order to prepare the observatory for night operations. During the day, the basic operations at El Pino and Montaña and the contracted services are maintained. There will be restricted permits for urgent technical visits. In addition, priority continues to be given to teleworking except for essential work and the presence of the headquarters in El Pino and Montaña will be according to needs.
Regarding transport, it will be minimal with limitations within the shift. For health and logistical reasons, there are strict restrictions on staff transfers to and from the hill on days and times other than their shift changes and is requested to arrive at El Pino using private transport.
Since September 29th we started the cooling of instruments. We will leave with the Clay Telescope with night observations on October 8, 2020. Observers will be able to use the MIKE and LDSS-3 instruments initially, with the PFS available from October 25, 2020. All observations will be done remotely, with a support astronomer in the mountains. Robotic telescopes will also be able to resume operations.
The duPont and Swope telescopes will remain closed. Updates on the possible opening of these facilities will be provided as they become available.
It is important to mention that the stages of reopening the Observatory are subject to change and that the responsibility for approving or not approving phase transitions rests with the Director.
Progress in these phases depends on each of us. For this reason, I reiterate the request to complete the Health Report daily and to contact your headquarters in case of contagion, own or close, of COVID-19.
I thank you all for your enormous patience and great attitude towards work during these difficult months. I thank you all for your enormous patience and great attitude towards work during these difficult months. We still do not know when the pandemic will end, nor what changes it will bring, but we do know that we have learned a lot and that we are prepared to face the new times.
Leopoldo Infante Lira
Director Observatorio Las Campanas