Several challenges will have to be faced by the staff at Paranal Observatory in order to be well prepared for a seamless integration of the ELT in the current VLT operations scheme. The Telescopes and Instruments Operator group (TIO) is already undergoing changes connected with some of the identified technological and operational needs for the ELT. This paper will have detailed information about the current training needs, group structural changes, the current activities using the adopted engineering-TIO  (eTIO) scheme and the staffing plan that will have to be applied in order to keep the centralized support of the biggest world infrastructure in astronomy at the time of the ELT, to handle daily science operations for seven different telescopes, the VLT interferometer and twenty-one scientific instruments in parallel.
Recently, the Science Operations department at the ESO-Paranal Observatory went through a series of changes, the one with the most impact goes by the name "SciOps 2.0", where staff changed the way they follow their daily work. In parallel to this development, a thorough analysis of the processes involved in the daytime coordination of Science Operations tasks led us to identify the need for an integrated task manager software . In this contribution, we summarize the development process for such a tool (called "Dynamit"), the methodology used, and how it came to be from an idea in paper to a full production custom-made operations tool. This is a follow-up to the paper  mentioned above.
We extend upon the initial analysis on the Evolution of Operations for the Surveys Telescopes at Paranal Observatory (C. Romero et al 2016) and follow on an ongoing Science Operation project. The operational complexity of some of the new generation instruments and facilities, incorporated into Paranal observatory, such as the AOF (Adaptive Optics Facility) will supposed a big challenge for all areas involved, including the operational one. Paranal Science Operation realized that adaptation to the complexity of this new systems, while maintaining the operational mode in vigor and the available resources, were feasible by releasing man power on the Telescope and Instrument Operators group. On this regard, Surveys Telescopes; VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for astronomy) and VST (VLT Survey Telescope) were early identified as candidates to provide the more demanding systems with an additional support operator and since 2016, improvements on Surveys Telescopes (automatization, stabilities, operational panels and screens distribution at the console, among many others) has become a joint effort between MSE (Maintenance, Support and Engineering) and Science Operations, on this effort and as a way to cope with the limited resources, operators has took an important role on the analysis and development of this project. As well as on acquiring experience with the creation of new operational panels plus the maintenance of some operational scripts. Now the dry run for this new operational mode is set for January 2018 and a staff resource for future panels’ modifications is on the way.
The near-infrared GRAVITY instrument has become a fully operational spectro-imager, while expanding its capability to support astrometry of the key Galactic Centre science. The mid-infrared MATISSE instrument has just arrived on Paranal and is starting its commissioning phase. NAOMI, the new adaptive optics for the Auxiliary Telescopes, is about to leave Europe for an installation in the fall of 2018. Meanwhile, the interferometer infrastructure has continuously improved in performance, in term of transmission and vibrations, when used with both the Unit Telescopes and Auxiliary Telescopes. These are the highlights of the last two years of the VLTI 2nd generation upgrade started in 2015.
ESO is undertaking a large upgrade of the infrastructure on Cerro Paranal in order to integrate the 2nd generation of interferometric instruments Gravity and MATISSE, and increase its performance. This upgrade started mid 2014 with the construction of a service station for the Auxiliary Telescopes and will end with the implementation of the adaptive optics system for the Auxiliary telescope (NAOMI) in 2018. This upgrade has an impact on the infrastructure of the VLTI, as well as its sub-systems and scientific instruments.
Paranal Observatory has a department called Science Operations (SciOps), which is in charge of operating the instruments within the global scheme established for the Very Large Telescope. This scheme was improved on what was called SciOps 2.0. The main operational goals of this new scheme were to strengthen the coordination of science operations activities within, and between, the department groups, by increasing the time allocated to “high-level” activities. It also improves the efficiency of the core science operations support to service mode (SM) and visitor mode (VM) observations, and the quality of the astronomical data delivered to the community of Paranal users.
In this context of efficiency and quality improvement of operations within the SciOps department, we had identified a strong need to optimize the management of daily operation tasks, via the development of a daily activity monitoring integrated tool, so this paper details the findings of the Daily Activity Monitoring Integrated Tool (DAMIT), the proof of Concept phase and the first delivered phase. The technical proof of concept was the first phase in development of a daily operation-monitoring tool for the science operations department. The primary objective of this phase was to evaluate the viability and impact of such a tool to improve the quality and efficiency of SciOps at Paranal.
This tool is running after overcoming the first phase of development, after followed an on-site technical analysis of the SciOps daily operation (day and night), the current procedures to certify the completeness and quality of the daily operations, and requirements for this new daily operation monitoring tool.
Observatories and operational strategies are evolving in connection with the facilities that will be built. For those new facilities, the strategy for dealing with the telescopes, instrumentation, data-flow, reduction process and relationship with the community is more or less handled from its conception. However, for those Observatories already in place, the challenge is to adapt the processes and prepare the existing people for these changes. This talk will show detailed information about current activities, the implemented training plan, the definition of the current operational model, the involvement of the group in projects towards improving operational processes and efficiency, and what new challenges will be involved during the definition of the strategies for the new generation instruments and facilities to be installed.
The operations model of the Paranal Observatory relies on the work of efficient staff to carry out all the daytime and nighttime tasks. This is highly dependent on adequate training. The Paranal Science Operations department (PSO) has a training group that devises a well-defined and continuously evolving training plan for new staff, in addition to broadening and reinforcing courses for the whole department. This paper presents the training activities for and by PSO, including recent astronomical and quality control training for operators, as well as adaptive optics and interferometry training of all staff. We also present some future plans.
Since 2009, operations began at the Survey Telescopes at Paranal Observatory. The surveys aimed to observe using a large field of view targeting much fainter sources and covering wide areas of sky quickly. The first to enter operations was VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) and then the VST Telescope (VLT Survey Telescope). The survey telescopes introduced a change into the operational model of the time. The observations were wholly conducted by the telescope and instrument operator without the aid of a support astronomer. This prompted the gradual and steady improvement of tools for the operation of the observatory both generally and in particular for the Survey Telescopes. Examples of these enhancements include control systems for image quality, selection of OBs, logging of evening activities, among others. However, the new generation instruments at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) posed a new challenge to the observatory from a scientific and operational point of view. As these new systems were more demanding and complex, they would be more complicated to operate and require additional support. Hence, the focus of this study is to explore the possible development and optimization of the operations of the Survey telescopes, which would give greater operational flexibility in regards to the new generation instruments. Moreover, we aim to evaluate the feasibility of redistributing of telescope operators during periods of increased demand from other VLT systems.
This paper presents the recent changes undergone by the Science Operations department of the ESO Paranal Observatory. This revised science operations model, named SciOps2, aims at improving operations efficiency and quality of the data delivered to our community of users. The changes regarding the new department structure, its staffing, and the distribution of tasks and responsibilities, are described in details, as well as the measured impact of these changes.
We present the latest update of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope interferometer (VLTI). The operations of VLTI have greatly improved in the past years: reduction of the execution time; better offering of telescopes configurations; improvements on AMBER limiting magnitudes; study of polarization effects and control for single mode fibres; fringe tracking real time data, etc. We present some of these improvements and also quantify the operational improvements using a performance metric. We take the opportunity of the first decade of operations to reflect on the VLTI community which is analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. Finally, we present briefly the preparatory work for the arrival of the second generation instruments GRAVITY and MATISSE.
The ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) offers access to the four 8-m Unit Telescopes (UT) and the four
1.8-m Auxiliary Telescopes (AT) of the Paranal Observatory located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The two
VLTI instruments, MIDI and AMBER deliver regular scientific results. In parallel to the operation, the instruments
developments are pursued, and new modes are studied and commissioned to offer a wider range of scientific possibilities
to the community. New configurations of the ATs array are discussed with the science users of the VLTI and
implemented to optimize the scientific return. The monitoring and improvement of the different systems of the VLTI is a
continuous work. The PRIMA instrument, bringing astrometry capability to the VLTI and phase referencing to the
instruments has been successfully installed and the commissioning is ongoing. The possibility for visiting instruments
has been opened to the VLTI facility.
Multiple Application Curvature Adaptive Optics (MACAO) systems are used at the coud´e focus of the unit
telescopes (UTs) at the La-Silla Paranal Observatory, Paranal, to correct for the wave-front aberrations induced
by the atmosphere. These systems are in operation since 2005 and are designed to provide beams with 10 mas
residual rms tip-tilt error to the VLTI laboratory. We have initiated several technical studies such as measuring
the Strehl ratio of the images recorded at the guiding camera of the VLTI, establishing the optimum setup of
the MACAO to get collimated and focused beam down to the VLTI laboratory and to the instruments, and
ascertaining the data generated by the real time computer, all aimed at characterizing and improving the overall
performance of these systems. In this paper we report the current status of these studies.
On March 17, 2001, the VLT interferometer saw for the first time interferometric fringes on sky with its two test siderostats on a 16m baseline. Seven months later, on October 29, 2001, fringes were found with two of the four 8.2m Unit Telescopes (UTs), named Antu and Melipal, spanning a baseline of 102m. First shared risk science operations with VLTI will start in October 2002. The time between these milestones is used for further integration as well as for commissioning of the interferometer with the goal to understand all its characteristics and to optimize performance and observing procedures. In this article we will describe the various commissioning tasks carried out and present some results of our work.