Remote Obs at the Nickel 1-m

At UC-Berkeley:

Before your Run: **IMPORTANT**

A. Contact Sandy Bowne (2-6424) to get access to room 11. She will need your UC ID#.

B. Send an email to Kelley MacDonald to let him know the dates that you will be observing. You may have to stop by his office (547 Campbell) to get TWO passwords: one to log in to Garavito and one to connect to the VNC server.

C. It is always useful to check that your card is properly activated and that you have the correct passwords BEFORE your run.

D. You may also contact, via email, your support astronomer to remind him/her that you will be observing remotely from UC-Berkeley. The schedule of the on-call support astronomers can be found on

Beginning of the night:

A. The polycom video conferencing system is not yet set up. TBD soon.

B. Remote observer logs into the host garavito as user remote.

C. Remote observer opens a Terminal window (from the menu Applications).

D. Remote observer executes a script, direct which will

  1. Start the VNC servers on host at the Nickel 1-meter Telescope
  2. Start active VNC viewers on Garavito
The remote observer will see a series of xterm windows on each of garavito's three screens. These xterms should always pop up in workspace "One" on each screen. The xterms corresponding to the 8-bit VNC viewers will be tan-colored, those for the 24-bit VNC viewers will be tomato-colored. In each xterm, CAREFULLY enter the VNC password.

If you fail to enter the VNC password correctly into the xterm, that xterm will vanish. If that happens, locate the xterm window in which you entered the direct command, and ender a Control-C keystroke in that window. Then re-issue the command, and be sure to carefully enter the VNC password each time you are prompted to do so. Note: you will have to enter the password 6 times!

E. When this process is completed, there should be both 8-bit (tan) and 24-bit (tomato) desktops displayed on garavito's leftmost and middle screens, and just an 8-bit desktop on garavito's rightmost screen.

F. Select the 8-bit (tan) VNC desktop displayed in workspace "Three" on each screen, either by pushing the "Three" button on the CDE toolbar or by using the [alt]-right-arrow or [alt]-left-arrow keystrokes to scroll through the various workspaces. Or press the key [FRONT] to see the menu bar.

G. To start the observing software, left-click on the tan-colored VNC desktop to bring up the "Root Menu", and then left click on the menu entry labeled "Remote Observation Startup".

This should start up the autoguider software in the middle VNC desktop, the CCD data taking system in the rightmost VNC desktop, and the POCO software user interface and related dome control software in the leftmost VNC desktop. In addition, the all-sky camera will be displayed in workspace "Four" (the 24-bit tomato VNC desktop) on the rightmost screen.

H. Two small mozilla browsers should appear in the leftmost VNC desktop. Each one will prompt you to enter the standard account and password used for observing at Mt. Hamilton. Once that password has been entered for each of those browsers, the image from the corresponding surveillance camera inside the dome should become visible. If either of those images goes blank or fails to update, click the RELOAD button on the browser that is displaying that image.

I. In the lower-left corner of the leftmost 8-bit VNC desktop, there should be an xterm window with a title of "password for humidity program". In that xterm, enter the standard password for the "user" account, and that should start up the humidity program. (NOTE: currently, the humidity program is displaying the temperature and humidity as measured by the weather station at the Shane Telescope.)

J. The 24-inch iMac in the UC-Berkeley remote observing room is, and it has only a single screen. To log onto further use your astro department login and password. This computer can be used to run a local web browser that should be used to display the Nickel Telescope Weather page: and the webcam

K. Get clearance to start the night

  • Check the weather on the web page (compare with the humidity and wind limits of the telescope), check the webcams.
  • Call the 3m telescope operator (831-459-5952), introduce yourself and discuss the weather situation. If conditions are suitable, the 3m telescope operator will enable the software allowing you to open the dome. If you are unable to contact the telescope operator in a reasonable period of time, try the day tech pager (408-231-6963) and a telescope should get in touch with you soon. If all else fails, contact a support astronomer.
  • The Berkeley remote operations phone number is 510-642-6067. Make sure that the 3m telescope operator has it to contact you in case of emergency, weather, or major problem.
  • In the left screen (POCO User Interface) left click on the tan background and choose "Nickel Telescope Remote-Control...", and in the new window click the menu item Observer Contact Info. Fill in the contact info in order to obtain control of the telescope.

L. Begin the Dome Opening Checklist.

Useful Checklist (updated Nov. 07, 2007)

To guarantee the safety of the telescope, use the updated, official checklist, click - here.

  1. Make sure the weather is OK. Turn on the dome lights, and check to see that the webcams inside the dome show no obstructions. Note that the cam points southward in the dome, east is left, west is right.
    1. WARNING: Are the dome lights ALREADY ON? This means that someone may be in the dome and may be injured if you move the dome or telescope. In the 1990's, an astronomer was killed in this situation. Check the dome cameras for people and call the telescopes before proceeding.
  2. Enable Movement (poco_fe). If POCO User Interface says "Emergency Stop Engaged" in red, then someone on the mountain has to flip a switch.
  3. Home Telescope (poco_fe)
  4. Enter the correct filter names for each ordinal position (dx)
  5. Open the dome (naux_fe)
  6. Open the windscreen (naux_fe)
  7. Open the mirror cover (naux_fe)
  8. Turn on DomeAuto (poco_fe)
  9. Enable movement (poco_fe)
  10. Turn on telescope tracking (poco_fe)
  11. Setup data taker (dx)
  12. Take twilight flat fields (dx)
  13. Check telescope pointing (dx, poco_fe, guider)
  14. Focus telescope (poco_fe)
  15. For direct imaging, verify Guiding to CCD offsets (set your screen fiducial )
  16. Keep and eye on the weather. Make sure to click the "deadman" button when it comes up (otherwise the dome will close to protect the telescope).
  17. Take lots of good data - recall that iget is the command for multiple exposures(read the README in the data directory) (dx) Note: the data are saved in /data. However, you can access them from XXXX through the automatic archive system
  18. Has high wind shut you down automatically? Wait 15 minutes and try again. In the down time, try to home the telescope with the dome closed because pointing may be lost. To home telescope, first PARK the telescope, then "Slew Home" one axis at a time.
  19. Take morning flat (dx) Note: Details on the checklist can be found in the Nickel Manual (available in the Control Room).

EMERGENCY? Call the Shane 3-m (831-459-5952). Locally you may reach Paul Kalas at (510) 849-5495 (home), (510) 229-2715 (cell). Franck Marchis may be reached at (510) 599-0604. Weidong Li is at (707) 747-5318 (home). UC Police may be reached at (510) 642-3333. Need to get home safely by walking? Call Bear Walk (510) 642-WALK.

4. Finishing the night: Secure the telescope and dome

  1. Park Telescope (poco_fe)
  2. Disable movement (poco_fe)
  3. Close mirror cover (naux_fe)
  4. Close dome (naux_fe)
  5. Raise windscreen (naux_fe)
  6. Verify that dome lamps, flat field lamps, and fans are turned off (naux_fe).
  7. Call the 3m telescope operator to let them know that you are done.
  8. Fill a night report detailing any problems, if any. If no problems, fill it in to let people know that you finished your night.
  9. Shutdown the software that is running within each of the VNC desktops.
    • Quit these programs using the option "Exit" in their menu. Do NOT kill the window directly with the FVWM window manager destroy or close option.
      • middle desktop: autoguider software
      • right desktop: CCD data taking software (on workspace "Three"), All-sky camera browser (on workspace "Four")
      • left desktop: poco_fe, naux_fe, webcam browsers, humidity program.
    • Select the local desktop on garavito and locate the xterm in which the direct command was entered.
    • Enter a "control-C" keystroke in that window.
    • Log out of garavito.

On further (the iMac):

    Shutdown any browsers or other software you have running.

    Log out of further.