The Gemini Observatory has a strong commitment to meeting the user community's scientific needs. This means providing a strong suite of instruments with broad applicability: those that can handle the largest share of science return as well as more unique instruments, some of which might have narrow scope but potentially high impact. Recognizing that building a new Facility Instrument is expensive and typically takes more than 5 years, we have developed the Visiting Instrument Program, which allows investigators to bring their own innovative instruments to either Gemini telescope. To be accepted, all visiting instruments must demonstrate their competitiveness via the regular time allocation process. The majority of successful instruments are made available to our broader user community within one semester of being commissioned at the telescope. Visiting Instruments are operated by the instrument team while on Gemini, and are not fully integrated to Gemini control and data reduction software. The instrument team is responsible for providing reduced data and/or a data reduction pipeline to PIs when the instrument is made available to the community, as well as providing technical assessments of any community proposals. In any given semester, as many as three Visiting Instruments at each telescope might be listed in the Call for Proposals. The availability of the instrument at either Gemini telescope is determined by popularity with proposers, by pressure from other instruments and programs, and of course by the willingness of the instrument team to allow the use of the instrument at Gemini.
The eight Maunakea Observatories continue to excel and expand but have traditionally been isolated facilities despite their close proximity to each other, with little formal sharing of human or technical resources. This has been changing recently, led by multi-telescope observing time swaps, budget challenges and the shared security pressures of Maunakea summit operations. Over the past two years, a series of Maunakea Operations and Engineering workshops have been held, discussing shared issues and novel ways of resource lending and sharing. The ideas and implementation of the first operations sharing initiatives that resulted will be presented, along with the lessons learned by reviewing the shared experiences of this wide range of highly productive facilities.
We review the multiple changes in Gemini Observatory operations over the past decade, and discuss their effect on scientific productivity. The initial mix of queue and classical programs, allocated by Partner-based Time Allocation Committees (TACs), has evolved to include “Large and Long” programs allocated from a pool by a dedicated TAC, a popular “Fast-turnaround” mode allocated by a novel “proposer review” system, and we are now receiving increasing numbers of visiting instruments, scheduled in blocks. Observations are carried out in queue (service), classical (visitor), and priority visitor (visitors execute both their own observations and the queue) modes. Gemini is already an important facility for following up time-domain discoveries. Looking ahead, Gemini South will be partnered by LSST on Cerro Pachón and both Gemini telescopes will put a significant fraction of observing time into responding to the LSST alert stream; we review Gemini’s positioning to fulfil this role and anticipate additional changes in our operational model, user software and data reduction to accommodate it.
Gemini North Observatory successfully began nighttime remote operations from the Hilo Base Facility control room in November 2015. The implementation of the Gemini North Base Facility Operations (BFO) products was a great learning experience for many of our employees, including the author of this paper, the BFO Systems Engineer.
In this paper we focus on the tailored Systems Engineering processes used for the project, the various software tools used in project support, and finally discuss the lessons learned from the Gemini North implementation. This experience and the lessons learned will be used both to aid our implementation of the Gemini South BFO in 2016, and in future technical projects at Gemini Observatory.
Gemini’s Base Facilities Operations (BFO) Project provided the capabilities to perform routine nighttime operations without anyone on the summit. The expected benefits were to achieve money savings and to become an enabler of the future development of remote operations.
The project was executed using a tailored version of Prince2 project management methodology.
It was schedule driven and managing it demanded flexibility and creativity to produce what was needed, taking into consideration all the constraints present at the time: Time available to implement BFO at Gemini North (GN), two years.
The project had to be done in a matrix resources environment.
There were only three resources assigned exclusively to BFO.
The implementation of new capabilities had to be done without disrupting operations.
And we needed to succeed, introducing the new operational model that implied Telescope and instrumentation Operators (Science Operations Specialists - SOS) relying on technology to assess summit conditions.
To meet schedule we created a large number of concurrent smaller projects called Work Packages (WP).
To be reassured that we would successfully implement BFO, we initially spent a good portion of time and effort, collecting and learning about user’s needs. This was done through close interaction with SOSs, Observers, Engineers and Technicians.
Once we had a clear understanding of the requirements, we took the approach of implementing the "bare minimum" necessary technology that would meet them and that would be maintainable in the long term.
Another key element was the introduction of the "gradual descent" concept. In this, we increasingly provided tools to the SOSs and Observers to prevent them from going outside the control room during nighttime operations, giving them the opportunity of familiarizing themselves with the new tools over a time span of several months. Also, by using these tools at an early stage, Engineers and Technicians had more time for debugging, problem fixing and systems usage and servicing training as well.
The aim of the Gemini Observatory’s Base Facilities Project is to provide the capabilities to perform routine night time operations with both telescopes and their instruments from their respective base facilities without anyone present at the summit. Tightening budget constraints prompted this project as both a means to save money and an opportunity to move toward increasing remote operations in the future.
We successfully moved Gemini North nighttime operation to our base facility in Hawaii in Nov., 2015. This is the first 8mclass telescope to completely move night time operations to base facility. We are currently working on implementing BFO to Gemini South.
Key challenges for this project include: (1) This is a schedule driven project. We have to implement the new capabilities by the end of 2015 for Gemini North and end of 2016 for Gemini South. (2) The resources are limited and shared with operations which has the higher priority than our project. (3) Managing parallel work within the project. (4) Testing, commissioning and introducing new tools to operational systems without adding significant disruptions to nightly operations. (5) Staff buying to the new operational model. (6) The staff involved in the project are spread on two locations separated by 10,000km, seven time zones away from each other. To overcome these challenges, we applied two principles: "Bare Minimum" and "Gradual Descent". As a result, we successfully completed the project ahead of schedule at Gemini North Telescope. I will discuss how we managed the cultural and human aspects of the project through these concepts. The other management aspects will be presented by Gustavo Arriagada , the Project Manager of this project. For technical details, please see presentations from Andrew Serio  and Martin Cordova .
Gemini Observatory operates two 8m telescopes, one on Cerro Pachón in Chile and one on Maunakea Hawai´i, on behalf of an international partnership. The telescopes, their software and supporting infrastructure (and some of the instrumentation) are identical at the two sites. We describe the operation of the observatory, present some key performance indicators, and discuss the outcomes in terms of publications and program completion rates. We describe how recent initiatives have been introduced into the operation in parallel with accommodating a significant budget reduction and changes in the partnership.
Gemini's Fast Turnaround program is intended to greatly decrease the time from having an idea to acquiring the supporting data. The scheme will offer monthly proposal submission opportunities, and proposals will be reviewed by the principal investigators or co-investigators of other proposals submitted during the same round. Here, we set out the design of the system and outline the plan for its implementation, leading to the launch of a pilot program at Gemini North in January 2015.
The Gemini Observatory is going through an extraordinary time with astronomical instrumentation. New powerful
capabilities are delivered and are soon entering scientific operations. In parallel, new instruments are being planned and
designed to align the strategy with community needs and enhance the competitiveness of the Observatory for the next
decade. We will give a broad overview of the instrumentation program, focusing on achievements, challenges and
strategies within a scientific, technical and management perspective. In particular we will discuss the following
instruments and projects (some will have dedicated detailed papers in this conference): GMOS-CCD refurbishment,
FLAMINGOS-2, GeMS (MCAO system and imager GSAOI), GPI, new generation of A&G, GRACES (fiber feed to
CFHT ESPaDOnS) and GHOS (Gemini High-resolution Optical Spectrograph), and provide some updates about
detector controllers, mid-IR instruments, Altair, GNIRS, GLAO and future workhorse instruments.
The UKIRT Wide-Field Camera (WFCAM) was commissioned in two phases between October and December 2004, and March and April 2005. It has been carrying out full-scale sky survey operations since May 2005. This paper describes the commissioning process and compares actual performance on the telescope with specifications in four key areas: optical image quality including delivered FWHM and ghosting etc., noise and sensitivity in the infrared and on the visible autoguider, array artifacts such as crosstalk and persistent images, and observing efficiency. A comprehensive program of science verification was carried out before commencing the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS).
Linking ground based telescopes with astronomical satellites, and using the emerging field of intelligent agent architectures to provide crucial autonomous decision making in software, we have combined data archives and research class robotic telescopes along with distributed computing nodes to build an ad-hoc peer-to-peer heterogeneous network of resources. The eSTAR Project* uses intelligent agent technologies to carry out resource discovery, submit observation requests and analyze the reduced data returned from a meta-network of robotic telescopes. We present the current operations paradigm of the eSTAR network and describe the direction of in which the project intends to develop over the next several years. We also discuss the challenges facing the project, including the very real sociological one of user acceptance.
The Mauna Kea Observatory offers a unique opportunity to build a large and sensitive interferometer. Seven telescopes have diameters larger than 3 meters and are or may be equipped with adaptive optics systems to correct phase perturbations induced by atmospheric turbulence. The maximum telescope separation of 800 meters can provide an angular resolution as good as 0.25 milli-arcseconds in the J band. The large pupils and long baselines make 'OHANA very complementary to existing large optical interferometers. From an astrophysical point of view, it opens the way to imaging of the central part of faint and compact objects such as active galactic nuclei and young stellar objects. On a technical point of view, it opens the way to kilometric or more arrays by propagating light in single-mode fibers. First instruments have been built and tested successfully at CFHT, Keck I and Gemini to inject light into single-mode fibers thus partly completing Phase I of the project. Phase II is now on-going with the prospects of the first combinations of Keck I - Keck II in 2004 and Gemini - CFHT in 2005.
The Joint Astronomy Centre operates two telescopes at the Mauna Kea Observatory: the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, operating in the submillimetre, and the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, operating in the near and thermal infrared. Both wavelength regimes benefit from the ability to schedule observations flexibly according to observing conditions, albeit via somewhat different "site quality" criteria. Both UKIRT and JCMT now operate completely flexible schedules. These operations are based on telescope hardware which can quickly switch between observing modes, and on a comprehensive suite of software (ORAC/OMP) which handles observing preparation by remote PIs, observation submission into the summit database, conditions-based programme selection at the summit, pipeline data reduction for all observing modes, and instant data quality feedback to the PI who may or may not be remote from the telescope. This paper describes the flexible scheduling model and presents science statistics for the first complete year of UKIRT and JCMT observing under the combined system.
The eSTAR Project uses intelligent agent technologies to carry out resource discovery, submit observation requests and analyze the reduced data returned from a network of robotic telescopes in an observational grid. The agents are capable of data mining and cross-correlation tasks using on-line catalogues and databases and, if necessary, requesting additional data and follow-up observations from the telescopes on the network. We discuss how the maturing agent technologies can be used both to provide rapid followup to time critical events, and for long term monitoring of known sources, utilising the available resources in an intelligent manner.
An update on the design status of the UKIRT Wide Field Camera (WFCAM) is presented. WFCAM is a wide field infrared camera for the UK Infrared Telescope, designed to produce large scale infrared surveys. The complete system consists of a new IR camera with integral autoguider and a new tip/tilt secondary mirror unit. WFCAM is being designed and built by a team at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, supported by the Joint Astronomy Centre in Hawaii. The camera uses a novel quasi-Schmidt camera type design, with the camera mounted above the UKIRT primary mirror. The optical system operates over 0.7 - 2.4 μm and has a large corrected field of view of 0.9° diameter. The focal plane is sparsely populated with 4 2K x 2K Rockwell HAWAII-2 MCT array detectors, giving a pixel scale of 0.4 arcsec/pixel. A separate autoguider CCD is integrated into the focal plane unit. Parallel detector controllers are used, one for each of the four IR arrays and a fifth for the autoguider CCD.
The 'OHANA (Optical Hawaiian Array for Nanoradian Astronomy, means "family" in Hawaiian) aims at making a large and sensitive optical/IR array with the Mauna Kea 3 to 10 meter telescopes. Telescopes will be linked with single-mode fibers to carry the coherence of the beams from the output of the telescopes adaptive optics systems to the beam combination units. The project has been divided into three phases. The first phase is dedicated to the injection of light into single-mode fibers and to the building of the injection module. The third phase is the realization of the complete array and its use by a wide community of astronomers. In the second phase, a prototype 'OHANA will be built and the "shortest" baselines will be explored. The baselines will be located in the South-East and West parts of the observatory. An extra baseline will possibly link the two groups of telescopes if infrastructure comply with it. This phase II 'OHANA will already be the longest and most sensitive optical/IR interferometer built. Scientific targets will span young stellar objects, extragalactic sources and other types of astronomical topics which require both high angular resolution and sensitivity. This paper reviews the main characteristics of the phase II interferometer.
Once the proof of concept of the OHANA Array has been demonstrated, the Phase II capabilities can be put into regular science operation, and the OHANA facility can be upgraded to extend interferometric operation to include all of the telescopes of the OHANA Consortium member observatories. This will constitute the Phase III of OHANA. The technical developments required will be relatively straight-forward. Longer fiber sets will be procured (fiber losses are not a limiting factor at the OHANA scale). An enhanced delay line capability will be needed in order to exploit longer baselines with good sky coverage and ample super-synthesis (several compact, multi-pass long optical delay concepts are under investigation). The scheduling and operation modes of an instrument such as OHANA present interesting opportunities and complications. We envision a place for both collaborative consortium science, based on mutual allocation of facility access, and PI-driven access, based on telescope access exchange between consortium members. The most potentially successful mode of operation would imply a community driven model, open to proposals from the different time allocation comittees. This poster looks at possible methods of allocation and operation, inspired by the UKIRT infrared survey (UKIDSS), the European VLBI, and the very interesting possibility of a Mauna Kea telescope time exchange scheme. The issue of data property is of course intimately tied with the proposal/operation system, and means of data availability and distribution are discussed, along with data interpretation tools, which may be modeled on existing systems such as the ISC at Caltech or the JMMC in France. when weighed against the UV coverage, the potential science and the uniqueness of this project, all these issues are worth an in depth study. Discussions are starting as to an OHANA Operation Committee, the goal of which would be to discuss, define and eventually carry out operational modes. The goal, of course, is for the Operation Committee to handle the details of multi-telescope scheduling in a way that will be transparent to the scientist who merely seeks the observational results.
The UKIRT Wide Field Camera (WFCAM) is an IR mosaic camera that represents an enormous leap in deep IR survey capability. It will be used as both an open time facility, and to perform a public IR Deep Sky Survey (the UKIDSS project), starting in early 2004. Here we present current plans for the data archive system, which will be provided as a standard service for all UK WFCAM data whether private or public survey data. The data rate is an order of magnitude larger than any previous survey experiment. WFCAM is therefore a crucial stepping stone between current day surveys such as SuperCOSMOS, APM and SDSS, and future facilities such as VISTA and the LSST. Pipeline processing presents a technical challenge, but the strongest challenges come in operation and curation of such a pipeline and of the rapidly accumulating database. For the public archive, there is little technical challenge in simply storing the data, and the real challenge comes in the rapidly increasing expectations of the user community for the kind of on-line services available with the archive. We describe three levels of archive service and the challenges they present, and discuss the hardware and software solutions we are likely to deploy.
From 1991 until 1997, the 3.8m UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) underwent a programme of upgrades aimed at improving its intrinsic optical performance. This resulted in images with a FWHM of 0."17 at 2.2 μm in September 1998. To understand and maintain the improvements to the delivered image quality since the completion of the upgrades programme, we have regularly monitored the overall atmospheric seeing, as measured by radial displacements of supaperture images (i.e. seeing-generated focus fluctuations), and the delivered image diameters. The latter have been measured and recorded automatically since the beginning of 2001 whenever the facility imager UFTI (UKIRT Fast Track Imager) has been in use.
In this paper we report the results of these measurements. We investigate the relation between the delivered image diameter and the RMS atmospheric seeing (as measured by focus fluctuations, mentioned above). We find that the best seeing occurs in the second half of the night, generally after 2am HST and that the best seeing occurs in the summer between the months of July and September. We also find tha the relationship between Zrms and delivered image diameter is uncertain. As a result Zrmsfrequently predicts a larger FWHM than that measured in the images.
Finally, we show that there is no correlation between near-infrared seeing measured at UKIRT and sub-mm seeing measured at the Caltech Submillimetre Observatory (CSO).
The upgraded 3.8 m UK Infrared Telescope employs active control of the primary mirror figure and secondary mirror alignment to constrain intrinsic wavefront errors, currently to approximately 180 nm, while a fast guider controls a tip- tilt secondary to remove telescope vibrations and tracking errors. It routinely produces images with FWHM below 0.'5 at 2.2 micrometers wavelength (the K-band). The best fully-sampled image yet recorded has FWHM equals 0.'171 and is believed still to be the best ever achieved by a ground-based telescope without the use of higher-order adaptive optics.
We present a summary of a short experiment in flexible scheduling of the UKIRT telescope in Hawaii. This was accomplished by asking visiting observers to alternate between projects based on specified environmental conditions. This limited experiment delivered more time on target in the required conditions than would have been achieved by classical scheduling. We find there is a need to accurately estimate overheads during observation planning, to deliver unambiguous measurements of observing conditions on which decisions can be made, to have software to reduce the administrative overhead when accounting for time used and distributing data taken during flexible observing.
The steady improvement in telescope performance at UKIRT and the increase in data acquisition rates led to a strong desired for an integrated observing framework that would meet the needs of future instrumentation, as well as providing some support for existing instrumentation. Thus the Observatory Reduction and Acquisition Control (ORAC) project was created in 1997 with the goals of improving the scientific productivity in the telescope, reducing the overall ongoing support requirements, and eventually supporting the use of more flexibly scheduled observing. The project was also expected to achieve this within a tight resource allocation. In October 1999 the ORAC system was commissioned at the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope.