REMOTE OBSERVING GUIDELINES – CONTINGENCY PLAN

WORKFLOW:

      Basic Remote Observing Workflow:

The telescope schedule is currently actualized for October for the Clay Telescope (future months will be added soon) … each PI should receive an email with a run code.

Go to the Telescope Schedule page (http://www.lco.cl/?page_id=4349) and click on your run to enter two important forms:

  1. Instrument Setup Form for details of the instrument configuration for the run
  2. Instrument Observing Plan Form for detailed calibration and observing plans and associated files (target catalog, finder charts)

Theses forms should be submitted in advance of scheduled run so that the information can be downloaded and available on site before the first night of the run. It would be helpful to include in the Instrument Setup Form the time of day after 14:00 CLT on the first night of the run that the remote observer would like to connect to the control room.  Alternatively, this information could be emailed to remoteobs@lco.cl prior to the first night of the run.

At 12:00 CLT each day, automated email will be sent to the PI for that night providing VPN login credentials for the next 24 hrs. 

Following the VPN instructions below, the remote observer(s) should test the VPN connection and then open a browser window (Chrome is the preferred browser) to http://observer.lco.cl 

At this internal LCO page, detailed instructions and links are provided including contact telephone information, Zoom Room, VNC, and the KVM link to passive viewing of the TCS and guider cameras.

The observer(s) can email remoteobs@lco.cl to communicate with the site team including the instrument specialist on duty to propose a connection time. 

After 14:00 CLT the instrument specialist should have initiated the Zoom Room in the control room and apart from other necessary duties, should be available to receive a connection request over Zoom as well as permit VNC access to the observer workstation and KVM access to TCS and guider cameras.

Keep in mind that both the Zoom Room and the VNC connections will require authorization from staff in the control room. 

Once a remote observer is connected, they can begin instrument calibrations and communicate with the control room staff regarding needs for opening of mirror covers and control of lamps as necessary. 

The goal is to maintain communication open via the Zoom Room at all times and to coordinate control of the Observer Workstation with the assigned Remote Astronomer having primary access.  Additional remote connections are possible via the same VPN and VNC connectivity.  However, it is advisable that any additional VNC connections set their sessions to be in ‘Observer’ mode so as to avoid conflicts in keyboard and mouse controls. 

Sometime near sunset or after ~19:30 CLT the telescope operator and support astronomer should arrive at the control room and can prepare for opening and any additional calibrations including twilight activities.  Both the operator and support astronomer will be assisting the remote astronomers throughout the night. 

All instrument data are written to RAID disks attached to the observer workstation and the remote astronomers are responsible for copying these date to their home institutions.  Data will be backed up to alternate local disks each morning. 

 

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1 PURPOSE

The goal of this document is to define the guidelines on hardware, software and steps that should be conducted for a successful remote observing session.

 

2 SCOPE

This document applies for all remote observing runs conducted on telescopes operated by Las Campanas Observatory (LCO). These guidelines are valid during the present contingency period associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. In the future, remote observing sessions must be conducted from Partner Institutions remote facilities (The desired remote setup is defined in Remote Observing Station Guidelines).

 

3 DEFINITIONS

Not Available.

 

4 GUIDELINES  

4.1 Requirements

It is important to note that observations carried out in remote observing mode are still subject to the standard Observer guidelines adopted at LCO. 

 

4.1.1 Internet connection

A fast internet connection (> 8 Mbits/sec) is required in order to support a VNC session to the Observer Workstation  and a Zoom video call to maintain communications with the Telescope Operator.

 

4.1.2 Hardware requirements

LCO Observer workstations are currently composed of an Apple Mac Mini displaying to 2 monitors UXGA-1920×1200 screen resolution. Attempting to perform a remote observing run with only your laptop or a single monitor desktop less than 4K resolution is discouraged as it will reduce efficiency requiring continuous switching between VNC screens, Zoom and other required windows.

In order to achieve better performance on your remote observing run the following hardware is suggested.

  • Macbook Pro/Air, MacMini or Imac 2012 or later with a 3 button mouse or trackball of your preference. You need to check your hardware capabilities for the best supported monitor resolution.
    1. 4K 43” external monitor 3840×2160 resolution external monitor  if supported by your computer, this is the preferred choice and will allow you to have all the windows on one screen.
    2. 34” WQHD 3440×1440 resolution external monitor  if supported by your computer, second choice, can allow both observer workstation screens on the monitor and use your laptop/desktop screen for video connection and other local windows.
    3. 24” or greater UXGA-1920×1200 or FHD-1920×1080 external monitor. Only one screen at a time will be viewable, therefore you will need to switch between screens upon need and use your laptop screen for video connection and other windows. In case of Mac mini dual monitor configuration is desired.

 

You can check your device capabilities based on  its serial number following the indication described on the related how to.

 

4.1.3 Software requirements

  • Operating system: OSX High Sierra (10.13.6) or later.
  • VNC viewer: Native macOSX client is the required VNC client, some ajustement will be needed according to your external monitor setup, please check the related how to for more information. 
  • Video conference client: Zoom meeting client (latest version) is required in order to communicate with the Support Scientist , Telescope Operator and Instrument support technician that will assist you during your run. Check the related how to if you need guidance on setup and use zoom client.

 

4.2 Before your remote observing run

4.2.1 Prepare your remote observing session

Complete your instrument setup form and observing plan form. If the observing time is to be shared during the night, the PI for the run will be required to coordinate the instrument setup forms and share related connection information with all observers. 

 

4.2.2 Setup your VPN connection

You will use native mac OSX VPN client to connect, VPN credentials are changed on a daily basis and are valid for a 24 hours window starting at noon the day your run starts, each PI will receive an email with credentials on a daily basis.  See detailed VPN instructions.

 

4.3 During your remote observing run

Remote access for preparations and calibrations will start between 14:00 and 16:00 local Chile time.  The  Instrument specialist at Magellan or the support staff at duPont will initiate the Zoom video call at the control room.  Link information for the Zoom Room as well as the VNC and KVM connections are available on internal web page at observer.lco.cl (accessible via the VPN connection). 

 

The VNC connection to the observer workstation must be authorized by local support staff once the Zoom video call has been established.

 

Please remember to fill in the daily/nightly report (VPN required) before going to bed. Note that you need to connect through the VPN in order to access the daily report.  This page is also linked at the top of the observer.lco.cl page for ready access at all times. This is a very important step, not only because it allows us to keep statistics on telescope use, downtime due to weather or technical issues, but mostly because only if we receive an early report on a technical problem, can we act promptly the next day to try and fix it and have you or the next observer ready for the next science night. 

 

4.4 After your remote observing run

Please fill in the Run-Report (VPN required) which is again linked on the observer.lco.cl page. The Run-Report form is our way to know your assessment of the entire remote observing run experience, so it is very important you submit it. Feel free to add any comments you think appropriate. 

 

4.5 Contact information and useful links.

 

Phone contact information
Telescope USA phone number Chile Phone Number Internal Extension
DUPONT Control Room +1-626-310-0436 +56-51-2203609
BAADE Control Room +1-626-310-1223 +56-51-2203635
CLAY Control Room +1-626-310-1230 +56-51-2203637

 

LCO Telescope Schedule Public Link
LCO Weather Information Public link
LCO Daily report Internal Link
LCO Run Report Internal Link

 

 

5 RELATED STANDARDS, POLICIES AND PROCESSES