Alternative Site Observing
Cahill Remote Observing Facilities (ROF) are closed until further notice in response to the present health emergency, so it is necessary to accommodate atypical observing situations. In circumstances where ROF are inaccessible or impractical, W.M Keck Observatory (WMKO) and Palomar Observatory support Alternative Site observing on an as-authorized basis, including observing from home.
1. Keck RO:
WMKO requires Alternative Site (AS) observers to follow these instructions:
For AS observing please designate one critical observer and one backup observer who will be the points of contact for your observing team. They should be experienced observers if at all possible. We will work with designated observers to configure computer connection to allow AS observing through VNC (Virtual Network Computing) protocols. Designated observers can help other observing team members connect to observing sessions as time and network resources permit.
Please use AS observing judiciously, as it places additional administrative burdens on observatory staff: e.g. network security requires alternative observing site network parameters to be authenticated by WMKO or Palomar staff. To help us manage this additional administrative load, please do NOT contact WMKO Support Astronomer staff before four (4) days in advance of your forthcoming session, or until your designated Support Astronomer reaches out to you. When you do contact WMKO staff, please clearly indicate the date of and Program ID for your scheduled observing session. These parameters are important —keeping the lines of communication clear and allow us to prioritize observers who have immediate needs.
Keck Observing Session Connection Methods
1.1. WMKO AV Connection: Zoom
As with regular remote observing sessions, videoconference connection between the observing team and the support astronomer/telescope operator is required for AS observing. This videoconference connection shall be made using the Zoom videoconference package.
Each Keck telescope has its own unique Zoom meeting ID. The ID can be obtained from the associated support astronomer for your run, users should wait for instructions from WMKO staff before initiating a Zoom call.
Caltech provides Caltech-specific Zoom package instructions.
1.2. WMKO Computer/Instrument Connection
The following two methods are available to AS observers for computer/instrument interface and control:1.2.1. Keck Remote Observing (KRO)
Josh Walawender of WMKO has developed a package called
KRO is supported on MacOS and linux-based platforms; it is unclear if and when MS Windows can be supported. Windows users should refer to the Double-VNC method below.
Please follow KRO installation instructions in the git hub repository to install and configure KRO:
KRO Tips and Tricks:
The Double VNC method uses a chain of VNC connections to take advantage of existing Keck scripts and firewall configurations running on remote observing computers in Cahill ROF. Observers typically use the Remmina VNC client for Linux and MacOS or Real VNC on Windows to connect to the Cahill machines and then follow the link below:
Double-VNC Tips and Tricks:
2. Palomar/Hale RO:
As of 26 May Palomar is authorized by Caltech to operate under limited operations guidelines, including no external personnel allowed on the observatory compound, and necessitating all Hale/P200 observations be made by remote observing.
Please see these instructions for Palomar Alternate Sites Remote Observing.
Hale support astronomer and the telescope operator communications are made using Zoom. The support staff will provide the Zoom meeting ID number in advance of your observing session.
3. Resource List:
These resources are relevant to supporting AS observing:
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