Observing Operations | Reviews | Survey Management

Sloan Digital Sky Survey
Review of Observing Systems and Survey Operations

Status of the SDSS Project at APO as of April 2000
J. E. Gunn
April 11, 2000


We present in this document a brief description of the major components of the project at APO, their status as of the middle of April 2000, tasks yet to be done, and a brief description of recent progress.
 

I. INTRODUCTION

The scientific and commissioning exercise was going exceedingly well this fall, particularly in the October dark run, when we had quite good weather, and we obtained a lot of good data. It was unfortunately discovered just after the end of that run that the secondary mirror was broken, and we had, as you all know, to go down for about three months for repairs. We will discuss the secondary in more detail later, but the bottom line is that the secondary mirror has been repaired, aluminized, was reinstalled in the telescope in the early new year and was found to have suffered negligible optical degradation.

We spent much of the fall quarter scrambling to recover from this, which required a new secondary support, thoroughgoing revision of our engineering review procedures, and detailed preparations for testing the mirror upon reinstallation. Other parts of the project used the delay, during which there were, of course, no observations, to great advantage to bring several software and hardware products to or much nearer completion.

The enclosure, which had been our engineering nemesis for some years, was finally modified in the fall so that we could move the telescope to the zenith inside it. Those modifications, which were scheduled for completion in early November, were beset with delivery problems on the rather specialized siding/roofing, and ran significantly and dangerously late, well into the bad-weather period in December. We prepared for this eventuality by constructing a strong but simple metal-framed fabric enclosure for the telescope, which, despite a few scares during high winds, both survived itself and protected the telescope quite adequately. We assumed occupancy of the building in middle December, and finished the few remaining detail items in the first week of January. We can now move the telescope to the zenith for work on it and the instruments inside, and already the enormous positive impact of this ability is being felt in the work schedule.

We will address the various systems one by one, starting with the hardware and advancing to the software, fininshing with some of the most significant scientific results emerging from the initial data.
 

II. OBSERVING SYSTEMS

 The telescope and instruments are all essentially complete, working, and demonstrated to be capable of taking high-quality data. This is not to imply that all the qualification testing is complete, nor that all the detail required to operate them at full efficiency has been implemented, but everything works and, with the possible exception of the telescope optics, we BELIEVE works to specification.
 

II.1 THE 2.5-METER TELESCOPE

 II.1.1 The Optics

The optical design is a more-or-less classical Ritchey, with a final corrector close to the focal plane for the imaging configuration which corrects simultaneously for distortion (necessary because of the TDI scanning mode we employ) and for lateral color, and one for the spectroscopic configuration which corrects exquisitely for lateral color and has rather small longitudinal color errors.

The major optical components have by now all been in place for a year, all but the spectroscopic final corrector for three years. The secondary, of course, was broken last fall. A roughly circular piece of the faceplate about 8 inches in diameter was pushed out of the center. This broken piece was surgically removed at SOML and a meniscus which was made to the correct radius and very accurately centered and made tangential to the mirror surface was cemented on. We appear to have dodged that bullet completely; the image quality appears qualitatively and quantitatively no different after the secondary accident than before, except that the collimation has improved to the point that the asymmetry of the image quality across the focal plane has almost entirely disappeared. This in turn was made possible by the incorporation in the meniscus of a very accurate collimation target. The area covered by the meniscus is not used optically owing to the large central obscuration in the telescope, and the stresses released by the breakage do not cause any significant surface errors in the part of the mirror which is used optically.

We were plagued at the beginning with uncertainties associated with collimation, to which this very wide-field telescope is much more sensitive than most telescopes, and were unable to achieve the design image quality at large field angles. This has improved with better collimation techniques, and we are convinced now that collimation is no longer a problem, but we still do not meet our stringent requirements for image quality at the edges of the field.

The center-to-edge degradation is calculated to be about 0.30 arcsec^2 from the design; the observations give a number close to 0.70 arcsec^2. This difficulty, along with evidence that the site (at least in the last three years) very seldom produces as good seeing as we had hoped, may drive us to relax our requirements on image quality, at least temporarily, from 1.2 to 1.5 arcseconds FWHM. This change is contingent on reassuring ourselves (as seems likely from extant data) that this will have negligible impact on our spectroscopic target selection.

 

II.1.2 Secondary Mirror Support System

It is perhaps worth spending a few sentences on the philosophy of the secondary support system. There is no cell; the three actuators which control piston and tilt transmit motion to the mirror through three whiffletrees attached directly to the backplate of the Hextek secondary mirror. The central support, which has had to be redesigned completely to accomodate the broken mirror, makes use of a linear bearing which supports the mirror slightly ahead of the backplate (when we had a faceplate in the center it supported the mirror at its CG). This makes for a system with minimum mass and obscuration, but clearly implies that enormous caution needs to be exercised in such matters as forces and clearances.

It was discovered in early December that the secondary had been broken because of a dimension error in the newly-installed piezoelectric controllers for the secondary, which in turn caused an interference which resulted in very large axial forces and the subsequent breakage. A rather complex new support system based entirely on flexures was well into the final design phase at this time, but the conclusion of a very successful review of the problem and the new design was that the old system was not of its nature responsible for the accident at all, and that it seemed, in fact, best to return to a slightly modified version of the old design in the interest of time. (The old design in detail would no longer work because the broken mirror could not be supported in the same way as the old, completely intact one.) We set about doing this, and had the design done and most of the parts fabricated or modified as required by the first of the year. Major enhancements were the addition of safety switches which stop motion if excessive forces are applied to the mirror and much more positive stops to prevent the mirror from undergoing excessive and dangerous motion. A much more careful review process was also instituted to prevent the kind of error which had been made which was responsible for the accident originally. The new flexure support system will still be implemented, but the one in place now will serve adequately until we can finish the new one at a somewhat more deliberate pace.

The system in its current incarnation employs Heidenhain linear gauges with 5 nm resolution and screw actuators in series with very small-range piezoelectric stacks. We are not yet using the piezos actively, and have achieved reasonably satisfactory performance, but will install new circuitry which does make use of the piezos later this spring. The factory-supplied servo electronics dissipate too much heat to be used in the secondary cage and could not be stabilized with the low (~20 Hz) resonant frequency of the secondary structure in piston/tilt.

 

 II.1.3. Primary Mirror Support System

The primary mirror support system makes use of bellofram pistons and a 4-axis pneumatic analog PID servo system controlling three segments in piston/tilt and one system for transverse motion. The system works quite well, but we have run into a few problems. We discovered in the fall that we were having serious problems with the pneumatic servos because of water in the system. The system is basically closed but is supplied with makeup air from the mountain compressed air distribuion system, and that air is certified very clean and VERY dry. We now believe that the water is introduced via blowby on the rocking-piston pumps on the vacuum leg of the system, but we have thus far been unable to find satisfactory replacements. In the meantime, driers and filters have been installed in the system itself, and once the water was removed from the system (a rather difficult and haphazard operation) it appears to be performing well. The replacement of the pumps remains a high-priority goal.

 

II.1.4 The Telescope Structure

 The telescope proper (The OSS—optical support structure) is a by-now standard lightweight structure very much like the 3.5-meter telescope and WIYN. One departure we made is the use of graphite-epoxy for the upper truss tubes, which helps both with balance and with thermal expansion properties. The structure is both very stiff and very light, and performs well.

The OSS is supported by a fork mount with the elevation motion implemented by means of dual friction capstan drives, the capstans being driven directly by large DC servo motors as is the current fashion. The elevation bearings are large angular-contact ball bearings, which after some problems with initial alignment at L&F have performed well. The fork is supported on a tall cone with a spherical roller thrust bearing at the bottom supporting all the weight, and a 2.5-meter drive disk just beneath the fork with two servomotor/capstan units and two idlers for drive and angular location. The cone and support rollers are located by means of a hollow concrete pier which carries the fixed part of the thrust bearing and the tension frame which carries the capstans and rollers. We have had the (expected) difficulty with differential expansion in height between the concrete and steel, but the effects appear to be relatively benign.

 

II.1.5 The Drives

The drives for all three axes (elevation, azimuth, and instrument rotator) are implemented with identical DC servo motors and very similar capstan/idler drive assemblies. The motors are driven by Glentek DC servo amplifiers via MEI digital DSP-based servo controllers. We achieve servo errors of order 60 milliarcseconds on the telescope axes, much smaller averaged over the integration time of the camera.

 

II.1.6 The Encoders

The position of the telescope is determined by means of friction roller-driven Heidenhain rotary encoders with a stepsize of about 13 mas. These perform adequately, but we have had some problem with hysteresis associated with large moves, particularly in elevation, in which errors of a few arcseconds can accumulate during a night’s observing. The absolute position is obtained by ‘fiducials’ implemented as segments of Heindenhain encoder tape at roughly 15 degree intervals, and when this system is finally completely understood the encoders will rezero during any slew which crosses a fiducial. The rotator uses a relatively small- diameter Heidenhain tape loop both for encoding and fiducials. The angular resolution is not so high as for the telescope axes, but is more than adequate for this application.

 

II.1.7 The Windbaffle

The enclosure of the telescope rolls completely away, and the telescope is protected from lights and the wind by a windbaffle which is supported separately from the telescope pier and is servoed to the telescope and moves with it. This results in a very thermally responsive structure and was probably cheaper than a conventional dome, but is not an unmixed blessing. The windbaffle is a relatively crude structure driven by powerful (to be able to deal with wind loads) servomotors which if anything goes wrong can bang into the relatively delicate OSS with great velocity and force. We have had several accidents and many more near-misses with the system, but it is clear that as our understanding of the system increases and we finally get all the safety interlocks implemented it will turn out to be as beneficial as its designers hoped.

 

II.1.8 The Enclosure

The enclosure is a rollaway structure with roll-up doors at each end, powered by variable-frequency DC motors. An addition was finished late last year which allows the telescope to be moved to the zenith inside the building, which alleviated an intolerable situation which had existed previously—namely that in bad weather, during which one wants to be able to do engineering, one could not because the telescope had to be outside to reach instruments or to check anything to do with the drives. In any case it was necessary to get the telescope out of the sun relatively early in order to secure adequate performace from the optics early in the evening.

The modifications also included the installation of a relatively powerful HVAC system, so that it will be possible to refrigerate to expected opening temperatures a few hours before opening. "Will be" rather than "is" because the system is not yet working to spec.

 

II.2. THE PHOTOMETRIC CAMERA

The camera covers a field about 2.5 degrees square and uses 30 SITe 2048x2048 CCDs in the main photometric array and 24 more 2048x400 chips in the leading and trailing astrometric/focus arrays. The photometric array consists of 6 columns of five chips each, each with its own filter and field flattener. The camera is used in TDI, with the star images travelling along the columns in such a way that the effective exposure time for each photometric device is 55 seconds, 11 for each astrometric. The five chips in each photometric column each have a different filter covering our five bands: r', effective wavelength about 6200A, i', about 7600, u', about 3550A, z', about 9100A, and g', about 4800. The five bands thus cover the wavelength range from the UV atmospheric cutoff to the silicon cutoff in the near infrared. We use three kinds of CCDs in the photometric array: the u' chips are thinned with a special UV coating, the g', r', and i' ones thinned with a standard visual AR coating, and the z' ones are thick. The astrometric and focus chips are thick.

The camera is constructed using the thick quartz distortion corrector as a substrate, and the invar CCD optical benches are registered directly to the back surface of this lens. The dewars seal to the back surface and are not in rigid contact with the optical benches at all. The cooling is via liquid nitrogen fed by an automatic system and the vacuum in the rather busy small-volume dewar space is maintained by a largish ion pump.

The instrument comes on and off the telescope by means of an operations cart which is lifted by a hydraulic lift. It lives in an enclosure (the "doghouse") permanently affixed to the rotating windbaffle floor, and enters and leaves this enclosure on the cart which moves on fixed rails.

The camera has been on the mountain for two and a half years and except for some work on the vacuum system and electronics has been functional for the whole of that time. Except for some work to make it possible to monitor the vacuum remotely and to enhance the safety measures in place in case of unforseen power outages or other failures, it is finished.

 

II.3. THE SPECTROGRAPHIC SYSTEM

 

II.3.1. The Spectrographs

There are two spectrographs, each a dual-channel instrument with two immersion transmission gratings/cameras covering the range 3900-6000 and 6000-9000 A, respectively. The resolving power is about 2000 across the spectrum, and the throughput is very high, peaking at about 20 percent in the blue and 30 percent in the red. Each spectrograph is fed by 320 fibers, so we obtain 640 spectra at a time. The spectrographs are permanently mounted on the instrument rotator and ride with the telescope; the fibers are quite short (~2 meters), and their configuration does not change as the telescope and instrument rotator move. The detectors are the same thinned, coated 2048^2 SITE CCDs as used in the g’, r’, and i’ bands in the camera, and the electronics and control circuitry are the same insofar as is possible as those for the camera.

The second spectrograph was installed in September, and there have been a large number of relatively minor problems with them, all of which we believe we have now solved. We consider them fully operational at this point, and the only work to be done is to finish an autofill system for the 10-liter dewars from which the small camera dewars currently autofill. This is a convenience and reliability issue, since the 10-liter intermediates last an observing night at this point.

 

II.3.2. The Cartridges

The fiber slits are mounted on cartridges which also carry the multifiber drilled plugplates, so the plate/fiber/cartridge/slit assembly is installed as a unit. We have nine such cartridges, so that a night’s observations can be prepared for during the previous day.

The drilled spectroscopic plates are bent by precisely machined conical rings mounted in the cartridges. These edge moments plus an adjustable central constraint bring the plates into conformance with the focal surface with an accuracy of better than 100 microns, corresponding to an FWHM degradation of of less than 14 microns, or about 0.25 arcsec. The fiber cores themselves are 180 microns, 3 arcseconds, diameter.

The cartridges also carry 11 coherent fibers which are rounted to a small CCD camera and are used for guiding; holes otherwise identical to the ‘science’ fiber holes are used drilled at the locations of relatively bright ( < 14 magnitude) stars.

All nine cartridges are at the mountain and finished. In the last dark run eight were equipped with locating collars for the guide fibers, which establish their rotation with respect to the plate. With this addition those cartridges are finished.

 

II.3.3 The Plate/Cartridge handling system

The logistics for loading the plates, plugging the fibers, mapping the locations of the fibers (so we know which fiber belongs with which object on the sky), transporting the cartridges to/from the telescope, and installing the cartridges on the telescope is fairly complex and involves a fair amount of specialized machinery, which we review here.

The cartridges are stored in a special three-wide-three-high rack on a hydraulic lift in a garage on the outer wall of the SDSS utility building. There are handling fixtures, which are basically captive fork lifts, on the inside wall, which has a rollup door, and on the outside wall, likewise equipped. During the day, the inside door is open to facilitate cartridge handling and plugging, and at night the inside door is closed and the outside one opened so that the cartridges can equilibrate and so they are easily accessible for transport the the telescope.

To plug a cartridge, the inside handling fixture is used to place a cartridge on the plugging station, where the new plate is installed, bolted down, and the central restraint adjusted. An electronic profilometer is then used along several radii to check the form of the bent plate and make sure it is satisfactorily close to the focal surface. The cartridge is supported on two gimbals near its CG, and the plugging station allows the cartridge to be flipped upside down about those gimbals to allow access for two people to plug the fibers.

The fibers are grouped into sets of 32 sets of 20, and before the plate is installed, it is marked, using a dedicated overhead projector and computer-prepared transparencies, to delineate allowable areas for each group of 20 fibers. This step is necessary because not all fibers can safely reach all parts of the plate. It is NOT necessary for the plugger to plug a fiber into a specific hole, just to be sure that the sets are in their proper regions.

The cartridge is then uprighted and transferred to the mapping station, where twin laser carriages move along the fiber slit, illuminating the fibers one by one. The plate is watched by a TV camera running into a frame grabber on a PC, and the locations of the illuminated fibers recorded as the laser progresses. In this way a correspondence of a hole on the plate with a fiber in the slit is made, and this file goes with the data, so we know which object is in which hole.

The cartridgeis then put back on the rack, waiting for the night’s observing. When it is needed, it is transferred to a cart which can hold two cartridges (the one just used and the one just to be used) and pushed to the telescope. A hydraulic lift whose axis is concident with the azimuth axis lifts the cartridge into place. It is located via a set of trefoil kinematic mounts on the instrument rotator and held into place with overcenter pneumatic latches. The same system is used to mount and dismount the camera. The final spectroscopic corrector lens must also be removed to mount the camera, and is carried by a cartridge for installation/removal from the telescope. The handling of this lens is at the moment a risky and time-consuming process, but a special enclosure (the ‘cathouse’) and handling fixture for the lens will soon be built and encorporated into the moving building, so that the lens will not have to be handled by the cartridge system (for which the latter was not designed) and the lens will be much closer to the telescope.

 

II.3.4 The Spectroscopic Calibration System

Attached to the front of the telescope is a set of eight lightweight aluminum honeycomb petals which are opened and closed by DC motors. These serve as a sort of dust cover for the telescope, and when closed present a flat diffusive surface with excellent UV reflectivity.

This surface is illuminated with filtered quartz-halogen lamps for spectroscopic flat-field calibration and a set of neon and mercury-cadmium lamps for wavelength calibration. There are twelve lamps in all, four of each kind, which illuminate the screen via small projectors to produce an illuminated annulus very near the pupil of the telescope, so that the optical path of the calibrating radiation is very nearly the same as that of starlight.

 

II.4 THE PHOTOMETRIC TELESCOPE

Because the 2.5 meter telescope is used in TDI mode in imaging and because its camera detectors saturate at relatively faint levels (14th magnitude), we cannot use it easily to observe ordinary photometric standards or to monitor extinction. We want to achieve 1 percent photometry eventually, so it is certainly necessary to use great care in estabishing the photometric system and in monitoring the photometric quality of the night. This is aided by a ten-micron cloud camera, which is very effective for detecting clouds, but quantitatively this need is addressed by a special-purpose 0.5-meter telescope with a UV sensitive SITE 2048^2 CCD which is used to establish and monitor a set of relatively bright primary standard stars, to transfer the photometric system to a set of much fainter stars along the camera TDI stripes, and to monitor the atmospheric extinction.

We have had great difficulty in making this system work properly, due to a set of unforseen problems of varying seriousness, including vacuum contamination which affected the CCD surface, trouble with the closed-cycle refrigerator chosen in lieu of an LN2 cooling system, improper baffling at several levels, software troubles, flat-fielding problems, and others, but these were mostly successfully dealt with by the beginning of the year, and the system seems now to work very well. The lateness of GETTING it working has made itself felt in our efforts to calibrate the 2.5-meter imaging data, which is not yet in nearly as good shape as we would like it to be.

 

III. DATA ACQUISITION AND CONTROL SYSTEMS

 

III.1 THE DA SYSTEM

The data from the science CCDs, which all have identical readout electronics, come from the telescopes to the operations building on FOXI fibers, one for the PT (one CCD, one fiber), one for each spectrograph (two CCDs each on two fibers), one for each photometric dewar (5 CCDs each on 6 fibers), and two for each astrometric dewar (6 CCDs each on 4 fibers), 59 chips in all. The guider and a small CCD in an engineering camera built around a spare cartridge casting use proprietary commercial controllers and come via fiber-carried Ethernet. Each fiber goes to a board called a VCI+ which receives the data and parallelizes it. The data are received by a single-board 68040-based MVME167 VME computer, which performs several tasks. In the case of the camera, it histograms the background column by column, finds, centroids, and measures widths and crude fluxes for stars, and prepares from these simple QA data. For the PT and spectrographs, they simply receive the data. Each MVME167 has a disk which spools the data and a DLT tape drive (in the case of the camera boards) which takes data from the disk pool and archives it. The VME backplanes have interfaces which talk to SGI Challenge computers, and there is software to pull data from the disk pool to the SGI Unix host computer. In the case of the spectrographs and PT, the data are archived by the host, but as mentioned before, the camera VME boards do their own archiving; the overhead of transferring ALL the camera data to the host is too large.

The camera system, which is by far the busiest, has given us a lot of trouble, centering around tape drive unreliabiliy (we have just replaced ALL the drives with more modern, more capacious ones AND increased the size of the pool disk so that the disks can store a whole night’s data), the SGI-VME interface, which is slow and somewhat capricious, and the VME SCSI tape controllers, which have subtle firmware problems. We have either fixed or found workarounds for all the known problems, and have had in the last couple of runs very little problem with the DA.

 

III.2. THE TCC

The pointing, slewing, tracking, and timekeeping computations are handled by the Telescope Control Computer, the TCC. This is a DEC Alpha machine running Fortran code under VMS and is a essentially a copy both in hardware and software of the 3.5-meter system. The system for that telescope is one in which the TCC talks directly to a set of very low-level microcontrollers on the axes of the telescope. Essentially the same commands are issued for the 2.5-meter, but there is another layer here, a fairly complex machine with other duties called the MCP. The TCC is a fairly mature system, having been in use on the 3.5 meter for some years, and is pretty reliable.

 

III.3. THE MCP AND TPM

The telescope MEI digital servo boards are controlled by yet another VME computer, an MVME162, the Motion Control Processor (MCP). This computer takes the detailed (and complex) data describing the tracks in elevation and azimuth the telescope must move along to describe a great circle on the celestial sphere for the camera (or just to track a star for the spectrographs) which are generated by the TCC and converts them to commands for the MEI servo boards. The MCP is also the general telescope housekeeping computer, which controls the flatfield screen, the lamps, eventually the instrument lift, interfaces with the interlock PLC system, and will enventually control the automated instrument change system. We have had some difficulty with the MCP software, though thanks to agressive action this fall and winter it is now a much more stable and robust system, and little time has been lost in recent runs to its problems.

There is in the same rack with the MCP another MVME162, the Telescope Performance Monitor, which logs many, many channels of data pertaining to telescope performance, including the mirror positions, the servo errors, the interlock PLC state, etc. We have recently developed an EPICS interface for these logs and the real-time data which makes them easy to access. The lack of such an interface and various problems with communication meant that the TPM was not much use to us during the difficult early commissioning phases, but now that we are terribly interested in assessing detailed performance will, I believe, prove very valuable indeed.

 

III.4. THE INTERLOCK SYSTEM

In a system as complex as this, with hydraulic lifts used routinely a couple of times an hour at night, the powerful windbaffle servo, a rollaway building, and countless other potentially very dangerous pieces of hardware which must be exercised almost continuously during a night, it is essential that interlocks be in place to insure both human and equipment safety, and, insofar as possible, safeguard the integrity of the data. These tasks are implemented by a commercial PLC system which is closely integrated with the telescope hardware via sensors, limit switches, and the like. The PLC logic is implemented in firmware and is monitored by a software system which allows graphical display of the state of the interlocks to allow speedy diagnosis of problems. Aside from occasional failures of sensors and switches, the system has been exceedingly robust and effective. Most of the accidents we have had have been caused by conditions either unrecognized as candidates for interlocks or because particular interlocks had not been yet implemented. The system has grown somewhat because of slowly added functionality, but has never seemed stretched.

 

III.5. THE INSTRUMENT CHANGE SYSTEM

As described above, the instruments (camera, cartridges, spectrographic corrector) are moved onto and off the telescope by carts and a hydraulic lift. This is a complex and accident-prone procedure and is lengthy if sufficient care is taken, dangerous if not. It is intended in the near future to implement a computer-AIDED system in which an observer will interact closely with a program which either makes moves or reminds her to do so and checks on such things as lift position and force and the state of latches. The conceptual design and all the hardware hooks are in place, but the PLC code and the MCP code to implement the system have not yet been written. We hope to have the system working before summer, and expect it to bring about a substantial increase in efficiency.

 

IV. THE OPERATIONS SOFTWARE

The instruments are operated by a set of three programs, largely implemented in TCL, which interact with the micros on the instruments and with the DA. They are IOP, the imager operator’s program, SOP, the spectrographic operators program, and MOP, the monitor operator’s program, which controls the photometric (nee’ monitor) telescope. They are all built on the IOP skeleton, which controls interaction with the DA, though the top layer which talks the the individual instruments is very different for each one. These are all very evolutionary products, with conveniences and functionality and logging facilities and helps for efficiency being added constantly. This evolution has been necessary but somewhat confusing; it has been controlled by fairly rigid version control measures, and seems to be progressing satisfactorily.

 

IV.1. IOP

IOP controls the camera and monitors its state and health. It issues commands to control the shutters and the CCD readout, and collects the data being serially produced by the camera during a scan, recording the many CCD voltages, temperatures, pressures, and other engineering data. It collects the QA data produced by astroline, the real-time code running on the DA computers, and supervises data transfer between the DA computers and their SGI Unix host. It supervises the tape archiving process and prepares the log files. It interfaces to the Watcher, described below, which allows the observers easily to keep track of the health of all the systems. At the end of the night it prepares all the summary files, generates shipping instructions for the tapes, and prepares a set of files which are transferred to Fermilab the next day to aid in data tracking and reduction. It is a very complex piece of code with very many conditional paths and as such has had its share of troubles, but we have, in fact, lost rather little observing time to its bugs. There are still significant enhancements to be made before we will be able to use the camera with full efficiency, but the progress is satisfactory. Missing yet are integration of the tactical databases into the code, integration of several of the utilities discussed below into the code, and the full implementation of real-time QA monitoring and log generation.

 

IV.2. SOP

SOP controls the spectrographs, the guider, and the calibration system. It aids in field acquisition (difficult because nine of the guide fibers have 7 arcsecond fields and two 11 arcseconds; the pointing needs to be very good and the peaking-up strategy excellent to efficiently acquire the field), controls the shutters and hartmann focussing screens in the spectrographs, and controls the CCD readout. There are no tape drives on the spectrograph DA computers, and all the data are transferred to the unix host and tapes written there; SOP supervises this as well. Still to be fully implemented are, again, integration with the tactical databases and real-time QA including cumulative signal-to-noise monitoring to set exposure times and predict data quality.

 

IV.3 MOP

MOP interacts with the other data-taking almost not at all, and has its own unix host, sdssmth (SOP and IOP share one, sdsshost). It controls the PT camera, the filter wheel, the telescope pointing and tracking, and the PT dome, and gathers and transmits to the Watcher information about the health of the PT camera. It also handles archiving of the PT data frames. It is fully operational, but it is intended that the PT act as an automated telescope carrying out a night’s observations essentially autonomously, and that functionality is not presently fully implemented. Nor, presently, is integration with the tactical databases—this last is especiallty important for MOP because of the necessity to keep ahead of the camera in order that 2.5-meter data not wait for PT observations for reduction.

 

IV.4 THE WATCHER

The Watcher is a program which runs collecting data from all the instruments, the MCP, the TCC, the TPM, and the DA. Its interface with the observers is through a GUI which implements lights and buttons which allow very quick access to increasingly detailed information about any subsystem. Trouble is signalled by a button on the main control panel turning red, and in the course of a few navigational steps the problem can be identified and diagnosed. In the case of very serious problems the program sends mail notifying a set of responsible individuals that the problem exists. They can then tend to them or contact someone on the mountain who can.

 

IV.5 THE TACTICAL DATABASES

These are databases which keep track of what has been done and give short lead-time guidance of what is to be done. They track plate usage, which plates have been plugged, whether a plate is finished and can be unplugged, sky coverage with the camera and quality of the data, patches observed with MOP and quality of those data, etc. The plate database is finished and operational, the others in various stages of development, but all should be operational by summer; in the meantime these things are tracked by hand, which is barely satisfactory now and will become impossibly onerous before too long.

 

IV.6 THE STRATEGY TOOLS

This code is for longer-range planning, the hope being that we can order our lives in such a way that the normal very slow progress at the end of the survey because of spotty sky coverage and concentration of unobserved fields in ‘difficult’ areas can be obviated. We have such a tool for imaging, though it has not been extensively exercised, but as yet do NOT have one for spectroscopy. Ideally we would have an integrated one. This code will probably NOT mostly be run on the mountain, but the observers need to be familiar with it. It takes as input the data in the tactical databases to track progress.

 

IV.7 THE EPICS INTERFACE TO THE TPM

There has recently been written and implemented an EPICS system which allows the observers to access easily the logs generated by the TPM in order to debug hardware problems or assess telescope performance; the same code is used to monitor these same quantities in real time.

 

IV.8 UTILITIES

 There are several utility programs, including Tccmon, a program which presents fundamental telescope pointing and tracking information, Skygang, which reads the Gang files, files with summary data produced by the DA which include star centroids, and matches catalogs to ensure correct pointing of the (blind) camera stripes


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



 
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