LCO REMOTE OBSERVING GUIDELINES

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.

1. In advance of your scheduled run:

Each PI with awarded telescope time should receive and email with a run code corresponding to their run.

With this code, Go to the Telescope Schedule page and click on your run to complete two important forms:

  • Instrument Setup Form: for details of the instrument configuration for the run
  • Instrument Observing Plan Form: for detailed calibration and observing plans and associated files (target catalog, finder charts)
    • Make sure the catalogs follow the specified format, otherwise it can cause time losses during the night.
    • It is suggested to name your submitted files with PI name and date of run (i.e. Osip.201120.cat)

These forms should be filled 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 also be helpful to include in the Instrument Setup Form the time of the 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.

2. On the first day of the observing run:

2.1 Afternoon

  • 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.
  • If the night is shared, the PI of the runs should share the VPN credentials and coordinate the observations.
  • 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.
  • 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 to 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 external lamps as necessary.

2.2 Night

  • Start: Sometime near sunset in Chile, the telescope operator and support astronomer will arrive at the control room and will 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.
  • 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.
  • All instrument data are written to RAID disks attached to the observer workstation. The remote astronomers are responsible for copying these date to their home institutions.
  • Data Transfer: Note that data transfer tools as scp, sftp, ftp are available, but only from the observer workstation into the remote observers selected destination.
  • Night Report: Please remember to fill in the daily/nightly report (linked directly at http://observer.lco.cl) before disconnecting following your night. This is a very important step that allows us to keep statistics on telescope use, downtime due to weather or technical issues, and to receive early reports on a technical problems, so we can act promptly.
  • If not the last night of the run, please add into the night report, the time for next afternoon connection for calibrations. If it is the last night of your run, please also submit a Run-Report (also linked at http://observer.lco.cl). The Run-Report form is our way to know your assessment of the entire remote observing run experience, feel free to add any comments you think appropriate.

3. Hardware and Software 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.

  • 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 and Support Astronomer.
  • Hardware (Mac computer required)
    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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 24” or greater UXGA-1920×1200 or FHD-1920×1080 external monitor. Only one observer workstation screen at a time will be viewable, therefore you will need to switch between screens (selectable within the VNC client) and use your laptop screen for video connection and other windows.
  • Software (MacOSX required)
    • Operating system: OSX High Sierra (10.13.6) or later.
    • 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.
    • VNC viewer: Native macOSX client is the required VNC client, some adjustment 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 Telescope Operator, Support Astronomer and Instrument Specialists that will assist you during your run.

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

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