Dear LCO community,
We are happy to report that the covid case numbers have been falling in the La Serena area and the region has exited quarantine today. Given this positive development, we are able to slightly increase the number of employees at Las Campanas. Starting tomorrow, we will begin to cool down instruments on the Clay telescope and anticipate returning to nighttime observations on the Clay on October 8, 2020. Scheduled observers will have access to MIKE and LDSS-3 initially, with PFS available beginning October 25, 2020. All observations will be taken remotely. Instructions for how to prepare for remote observations can be found here.
Once the Clay telescope is up and operational, we will begin the cool down process for the instruments on the Baade telescope. This process is expected to take a few weeks, so we do not anticipate resuming nighttime operations on Baade until some time in November. We will provide an update on the status of Baade by mid-October. Please note that only existing masks for LDSS-3 and IMACS will be available until we can accommodate more LCO employees on the mountain.
Robotic telescopes at LCO will be able to resume operations on October 8, 2020, as long as outsider personnel are not required to bring the telescopes back online. The du Pont and Swope telescopes remain closed. Updates on the potential opening of these facilities will be provided when available.
Given the high number of cases in the US and Chile, we anticipate that observers will not be able to visit the mountain until at least April 2021. For this reason, PI instruments that do not have local staff within Chile will not be available until April 1, 2021 at the earliest.
Finally, we note that the current plans are contingent on the pandemic conditions and subject to change at any time. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
John Mulchaey, Leopoldo Infante and David Osip