Observing Operations | Reviews | Survey Management

Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Review of Observing Systems and SDSS Operations
Apache Point Observatory,

 April 25-27, 2000

Agenda and Plan


April 25 (afternoon, 3:00 - 6:00 p.m.)

After a brief introduction, the review will start with three overview talks that are intended to give the reviewers an understanding of the scope of the project, its status and how the work at Apache Point Observatory (APO) is accomplished. I plan to allocate an hour and a half to these three talks, with half the time assigned to the technical overview talk.

  • Technical overview of the SDSS project including the goals of the Survey, a very high level status of the Survey, and an introduction to the major subsystems. (Special emphasis will be given to the optics since that will not be covered in the subsystem reports.): Jim Gunn
  • An overview of data processing and data distribution at Fermilab. The purpose of this talk is to give the reviewers an overview of what happens to the data after it leaves APO, how it is used to determine performance of the subsystems, and how it is used to provide the drill files for plug plates. A review of the data processing and distribution will be held at Fermilab some six to eight weeks later and at that time those subjects will be presented more thoroughly. (Special emphasis will be given to the steps between the delivery of magnetic tapes to Fermilab and the preparation of drilling files that are sent to University of Washington.): Steve Kent
  • Summary of SDSS operations at APO to date and the organization of the site staff, including non-NMSU folks. This will include a description of the size and functions of the staff at APO, including what they do and how they are organized. The role of the off-site project staff (commissioners, developers, and builders) will be described. (Emphasis will be given to performance statistics through the three dark runs prior to April 24.): Bruce Gillespie
  • Tour of the facilities. One hour will be allocated to the tour. This should enable the reviewers to see the 2.5-m telescope, .5-m telescope, and the support building. During the tour the reviewers will witness the following activities; moving the building away from the telescope in preparation for the start up of the nights observing, the start of system checkout by the observers, and the plugging of a plate in the support building. I am hoping that they can witness an instrument change later in the evening after dinner.

April 25 (evening, 6:00 - 10:00 p.m.)

  • Executive session with management and working dinner. Any remaining issues on the charge would be discussed and resolved at this time.
  • Interaction with the observers who are present after dinner. I would like the reviewers to witness an instrument change or plate change. The goal should be to let them witness normal operations as opposed to staged demonstrations.

April 26 (morning 7:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)

The Committee will meet at breakfast in executive session. This will allow them to discuss their impressions and prepare for the day. After breakfast a set of technical talks describing each hardware/software subsystem will be scheduled. These talks are intended to provide the reviewers with an overview of the status of each subsystem. Each talk should have the following contents: the subsystem requirements, the extent to which the requirements have been met, the plan to incorporate needed improvements to allow the subsystem to meet requirements and make the system operational (this includes making the system observer friendly), and the maintenance plan for the subsystem. A transparency of relevant science data that demonstrates that the subsystem will do marvelous science will be very valuable.

Each talk should enumerate the major problems that need to be fixed and these problems should be enumerated in Jim Gunn's talk (failure to meet technical requirements) or Bruce's talk (inefficient or unreliable operation) in order to be classified as major problems. The speakers should review the logs of the January-February, February-March, and March-April dark runs for problems in their subsystems. The speakers will be asked to find the documentation for each system so that it can be made available to the reviewers. I hope to assemble the material, which exists on our multiple web sites, in a single, accessible web site.

  • 2.5-m telescope: F. Leger
  • Imaging camera: C. Rockosi
  • Spectrographs: J. Brinkmann
  • Instrument change system: D. Long
  • Motion control processor and TCC: R. Lupton
  • Interlocks: J. Anderson
  • Data acquisition system: D. Petravick
  • Photometric Telescope: A. Uomoto

These eight presentations, including time for discussion, will be allocated 160 minutes. These talks will be followed by two presentations by the observers.

  • Observers tasks and responsibilities: This talk should describe what they do in the course of a day or night. It should be a follow up on Bruce's talk. It should include a description of the observer's manuals and system checkout procedures. It should present the observers perspective on the reliability and efficiency improvements that are needed to enable them to do their job. Scot Kleinman
  • Version control of the observers programs (IOP, SOP, MOP, MCP, and TCC), logs, and bug reports. This talk would explain how the observers and the developers control the code for operations, while improving observing efficiency. It should also describe the feedback mechanism between observers, developers, and management. Ellyne Kinney is the natural person to give this talk, since she has managed version control for the observers.

These talks will be allocated a total of 30 minutes including discussion.

The final talk of the morning will describe how we decide that a particular subsystem has met the requirements and the extent to which the data has met the science quality requirements. This talk will be allocated 30 minutes including discussion.

    • Scientific Commissioning and Requirements: The content of this talk will be presented by Andy Connolly and Jim Gunn.

These formal presentations will start at 8:30 and end at 12:30. A break of twenty minutes will be scheduled during that period.

April 26 (afternoon 12:30 - 2:00 p.m.)

From 12:30 to 2:00 the Committee will have lunch in executive session where they will discuss what they have heard and seen. At this time I want them to formulate questions for the SDSS staff participating in three breakout sessions, which will meet later in the afternoon. If the Committee has not already made writing assignments, it should do this before the executive session ends.

The three breakout session groups will meet with typically two or three Committee members. The Committee will set the agenda. The SDSS staff participating in each breakout session will include the presenters and other SDSS staff who will be at APO. The Committee will be asked to focus on the following topics:

    • Hardware systems and their maintenance. (The committee's questions could address our change control processes for hardware, our plans for improvements over the next nine to twelve months, and the way we will support the maintenance and improvements, among other things) I expect Bill Boroski will be the lead SDSS person, with French Leger, Connie Rockosi, Jon Brinkmann, and John Anderson, participating.
    • Observer and observatory operations. This will be the place and time to review the observer software programs with the developers and the observers. Software systems (The question should include how we handle version control and maintenance and development). I expect Chris Stoughton will be the lead SDSS person, with Don Petravick, Robert Lupton, Dan Long, Bruce Gillespie, Jim Annis, and the observers, who are not on shift, present. I hope that Ellyne Kinney and Scot Kleinman can be present.
    • Systems requirements and scientific commissioning. The SDSS staff participating in this discussion should be prepared to discuss the role of management in establishing the requirements and their role in determining that they have been met. This will be the place to discuss how the photometric calibration and final calibration are done. This will be the place where the integration process that allows us to do target selection could be discussed. This is where science commissioning gets discussed. It will also be the place and time for the Committee to explore how the project is managed with the astronomers and management. I expect that Jim Gunn will be the lead SDSS person, with Steve Kent, Andy Connolly, Alan Uomoto, and myself present.

The breakout sessions should start by 3:00 p.m. and last for two to two and a half hours. After the breakout sessions conclude, the Committee will go into executive session and meet for an hour to an hour and a half and discuss what they have heard. I hope that they can produce an outline of the report and start to write before dinner. The SDSS management will be available to discuss any issues that need resolution at this time or after dinner.

April 26 (evening)

There will be a dinner that evening (starting at 7:00) and after the dinner I hope that individual Committee members can do some writing. We will provide secretarial support to convert their notes or floppy disks into a draft report with a common format. Don Dufford will manage this process. Luann O'Boyle, Administrative Aide to John Peoples, will help Don that night and the following day. I note that the APO staff will be handling the logistics and providing other general support.

April 27 (morning)

The Committee will have breakfast and then meet in executive session. I want them to prepare the individual sections of their draft report at this time. The SDSS staff should be available to answer any further questions that the Committee members might have. Don and Luann will do their best to get the Committee's notes into a common form by 11 a.m. At 11 there will be a closeout with the SDSS participants. Since a dark run will be in progress observers and developers should take their assigned shifts.

I have invited Hirsh Cohen (Alfred P. Sloan Foundation), James Breckinridge (NSF), Mike Crisler (Fermilab) Tim Heckman (Chair, ARC Board of Governors), and Arthur Davidson (Chair, Advisory Council) to attend the review.

I have included the names and addresses of the Committee members for your convenience. Please check your listing to make sure I have not made an error.


Committee Members

Jim Crocker (Chair),
The Johns Hopkins University
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218


Richard Green
950 North Cherry Avenue
P.O. Box 26732
Tucson, AZ 85726


Ruth Pordes
PO Box 500, MS 120
Batavia, IL 60510


Ralf-Rainer Rohloff
Koenigsstuhl 17
D-69117 Heidelberg


Alan Schier
J. Alan Schier Company
3130 Foothill Blvd., Unit 1
La Crescenta, CA 91214

Gary Schmidt
Dept. of Astronomy/Steward Observatory
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721


Steve Smee
NIST Center for Neutron Research
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8395
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8395


Sidney Wolff
National Optical Astronomy Observatories
950 North Cherry Avenue
P. O. Box 26732
Tucson, AZ 85726


Review Support Staff

John Peoples



Mike Evans
University of Washington



Don Dufford
Johns Hopkins University


Luann O'Boyle


Gretchen Van Doren
Apache Point Observatory


Bruce Gillespie
Apache Point Observatory



 Review of Observing Systems and Survey Operations
Apache Point Observatory
April 25-27, 2000

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