TMT Operations Discussion: A Scientists Perspective

Nestled among the science talks today was a presentation by Mike Bolte (UC Santa Cruz), on the operations concept for the TMT, and as a manager of operational archives I listened attentively.

He mentioned that the initial operations plan was developed and costed for a site in Cerro Armazones in Chile, Chile, but in 2009, Mauna Kea in Hawaii was selected instead. Subsequently, in Fall 2010, a TMT operations discussion group was set up, consisting of scientists and experts in telescope operations, and the group’s goals included improved costing and establishing operational priorities. After 8 months, an operational plan based on the Keck Observatory was subject to external review.

The operations plan, based on a suite of eight active instruments, has the following key features

  • The TMT will be run on behalf of partners.
  • The partners will control access to their share of the telescope time.
  • There will be a full suite of proposal development and submission tools.
  • There must be a policy for dividing observing nights.
  • The TMT must accommodate conditions based observing.
  • The TMT must accommodate cadence observations through scheduled service nights
  • The TMT must accommodate target of opportunity (TOO) observing, and will need a policy on observers giving up time and on the maximum duration of interruptions.

For astronomers, the following services will be provided:

  • Observational simulators for all instruments.
  • Scripting capabilities to manage observations.
  • Instrument and telescope status and performance data.
  • A science liaison will be provided for each run.
  • Quicklook reduction will be provided for each instrument.
  • Full remote observing capabilities.

A searchable archive will host archive raw data and metadata. It will provide automatic association of science files with calibration files, and it will be built under contract to one of partners.  Data will have an 18 month proprietary period, and the archive will also host reduced products supplied by observers.

The following observing modes will be provided:

  • The observer operates operates the instrument, and the telescope operator runs the telescopes
  • A support scientist will be available throughout the run.
  • Instruments can be switched during the night.
  • Service modes include fixed schedule and performing observations on behalf of astronomers.

User Support will include direct assistance at the telescope and also training for new users

Finally, the TMT  will maintain a set of observatory metrics, which will, e.g., benchmark efficiency and track downtime, slewing time etc.

You can read the details of the operations in the The Operations Requirement Document (pdf) on the TMT web site (the latest version is dated September 2012).  The document is derived from the Science-based Requirements Document (pdf).

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4 Responses to TMT Operations Discussion: A Scientists Perspective

  1. Steve B says:

    Thanks Bruce, interesting reading. Observatories have many flavors, but are often variations on a theme incorporating best practices from previous facilities; neat to see some of them here.

  2. John O'Meara says:

    Am hoping to hear more about the data archive at some point. Most of the meeting was focused on science drivers (for good reason), but our science ideas will change in the 8+ years before TMT goes live. The need for a robust archive as part of the Ops model will not, and it seemed a bit bare bones at this point.

  3. astrocompute says:

    John, I would be delighted to hear your thoughts in the subject. Please note that under the current data access policy, KOA is not permitted to serve the observing logs.

    • John O'Meara says:

      I’ll put together a few thoughts and post them here soon. My main driver in going for the logs is context for calibrations and changes in flux from the sources. The latter can be rectified with tighter integration with MK weather center data, but the former can often boil down to guesswork by the archive user. More archive thoughts later…..

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