Robotic operation notes

Input file format

A separate file can be prepared for each night's observing. The file should have the name yymmdd.inp where yy, mm, and dd refer to the UT date of the observation (i.e. the date after midnight). The observing file is used to customize what sort of observations will be made, various observational parameters, set of filters to use, and will provide a list of potential targets and exposure times for each target.

A sample file can be viewed (in a separate browser window)

It is important to follow the correct file format. The first line is a header line that is ignored, but it should be used to label the values used in the second line. The second line has 9 numerical entries:

  1. DTFOC: minimum time interval between refocussing, in hours (suggest 2 hours?)
  2. DTEMPFOC: temperature difference that will trigger a refocussing attempt, even if DTFOC has not elapsed, in degrees C (suggest 2?)
  3. PHOTOM: flag to trigger automatic observations of standard stars, set to 0 for no standards, 1 to do standards
  4. DTLOW: if PHOTOM=1, sets time interval between observations of low airmass standards with airmass between 1 and 1.3 (a pair will be taken each time)
  5. DTHIGH: if PHOTOM=1, sets time interval between observations of high airmass standards with airmass between 1.6 and 2.0 (a pair will be taken each time)
  6. LDOME: flag to determine whether the lower dome slit will be opened (1 to open, 0 to leave closed). The lower dome will begin to occult the telescope at an airmass of about 2.0. The reason not to open the lower dome shutter if you don't have to is because the lower dome shutter is less robust to both computer and mechanical failures than the upper dome, so there is a larger chance that it will not close if something goes wrong.
  7. NPM: number of pointing models to run before starting observations
  8. NFOCTEST: number of focus tests to run before starting observations (these are engineering tests, not normal focus runs, which are always done).
  9. DAYTEST: flag to use a test mode where dome is not actually opened, allowing script to be run during daytime or bad weather for testing purposes only; 0 for normal operation, 1 for test operation

The third line is another header line, this time for filter information. The fourth line stars with a number that gives the total number of filters that will be used for the night; each entry for each object will have to specify exposure times for each of these filters (although one can certainly specify 0 length exposures to skip any desired filter for any desired object). After the number of filters, there should be nfilt entries giving the filter names, where the names are those as used by the control software for setting the filter (i.e., u, b, v, r, i, z, c); case is not important (although I prefer lowercase for consistency). For each of the specified filters, the program will attempt to get twilight flats, and also observations of standard stars if the PHOTOM flag is set; consequently, you don't want to include filters in this list that you won't need observations in.

The fifth line is a header line again, this time for the remaining object lines.

Starting with the sixth line, information is given for each desired object. The software works by observing the first object in the list that satisfies a set of requirements. The requirements are that the object has not already been observed the requested number of times, that sufficient time (as defined by the observer) has elapsed to observe the object again, and that the object falls into a desired window in airmass, UT, or hour angle. If all conditions are met, then the object will be observed for the amount of time in each filter specified on the object line.

IMPORTANT: the object lines are parsed by looking for white space between columns. As a result, you must not include any ``extra'' white space, e.g. in an object name or in the coordinates!

For each object, there needs to be $14+nfilt$ entries on the line. The entries for the object lines are:

  1. Object name. No spaces are allowed!
  2. RA, in format hh:mm:ss (No spaces allowed)
  3. DEC, in format +/-dd:mm:ss (No spaces allowed)
  4. Epoch of coordinates
  5. Minimum airmass to observe (at start of sequence)
  6. Maximum airmass to observe (at start of sequence). To ignore airmass criterion, set minimum airmass to 0 and maximum airmass to 99.
  7. Miminum UT to observe (at start of sequence)
  8. Maximum UT to observe (at start of sequence). To ignore UT criterion, set minimum UT to 0 and maximum UT to 24
  9. Minimum HA to observe (at start of sequence)
  10. Maximum HA to observe (at start of sequence). To ignore HA criterion, set minimum HA to -12 and maximum HA to 12
  11. Maximum number of visits, i.e. after this many sequences have been obtained, this object will be skipped. To request ``infinite'' repeats, set this to a very large number.
  12. Minimum time between sequences, in hours. To request continuous coverage, set this to 0.
  13. Guide flag, 1 to use guiding during exposures, 0 for no guiding (guiding recommended for sequences over 60s).
  14. Exposure times in each of nfilt filters, in the order in which they are specified in the filter line (4th line of file).
  15. Number of exposures to take in each filter during the sequence.