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16 September 2004 Observation planning tools for the ESO VLT interferometer
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Now that the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) is producing regular scientific observations, the field of optical interferometry has moved from being a specialist niche area into mainstream astronomy. Making such instruments available to the general community involves difficult challenges in modelling, presentation and automation. The planning of each interferometric observation requires calibrator source selection, visibility prediction, signal-to-noise estimation and exposure time calculation. These planning tools require detailed physical models simulating the complete telescope system - including the observed source, atmosphere, array configuration, optics, detector and data processing. Only then can these software utilities provide accurate predictions about instrument performance, robust noise estimation and reliable metrics indicating the anticipated success of an observation. The information must be presented in a clear, intelligible manner, sufficiently abstract to hide the details of telescope technicalities, but still giving the user a degree of control over the system. The Data Flow System group has addressed the needs of the VLTI and, in doing so, has gained some new insights into the planning of observations, and the modelling and simulation of interferometer performance. This paper reports these new techniques, as well as the successes of the Data Flow System group in this area and a summary of what is now offered as standard to VLTI observers.
© (2004) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Derek J. McKay, Pascal Ballester, and Jakob Vinther "Observation planning tools for the ESO VLT interferometer", Proc. SPIE 5493, Optimizing Scientific Return for Astronomy through Information Technologies, (16 September 2004);

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