Las Campanas Observatory Online Telecope

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Main Operator Links

Las Campanas Image

Observer's Cookbook

    This page provides a simple step by step instructions for starting the observatory, taking images,  shutting down the observatory, and emergency support contacts.

Starting up the observatory
  1.  Click on the Power Control link to bring up the power controller. Log onto the power controller and be sure the power to the web camera is turned on. If Not turn on the web camera.  Also note the status of the Computers, Roof Controller, Roof Interface, Cameras and Scope. If the computers are off, please power them on too.  Now wait for the cameras, scope, roof and computers to boot, if any have to be turned on. The computers take about a minute to boot. The web cameras will be ready in about 30 seconds.
  2.  Click on the Observatory Web Camera to view the status of the observatory. Once you log on with your user code and password, you should select your browser type and then a camera window similar to the one below should open.
    It is strongly recommended that you use Firefox as you web browser for best results. Using the camera's pan a tilt controls, examine the state of the observatory. Assure that the scope is in a reasonable position, no cords are tangles and that all appears reasonable. If all is not well STOP IMMEDIATELY AND POWER OFF THE OBSERVATORY AND CONTACT A SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATOR.
  3. If the camera or telescope were not powered on when you check the power controller earlier, click on the Power Control link to bring up the power controller. Log onto the power controller and turn on the power to the scope and CCD cameras.
  4. Click on the Astronomer's Control Panel link. This will bring you up to the ACP home page. You will be asked to log in with your user code and assigned password. Once the web page opens, check to see if the observatory is already on line.  The image below shows what the observatory looks like if it not on line.

    If required, click on the yellow Telescope link to open the observatory, unpark the telescope and prepare for imaging. The observatory may fail to open if weather conditions are such that they prohibit opening. Such conditions include high winds, high humidity, high dew point, or precipitation. In case the weather prohibits imaging, please skip down to the shutdown section and shut down the observatory in a orderly manner.If the imager is offline, click on the Imager link to bring the camera online.
  5. After the camera is online, you will see a Cooler line under the imager, click this link and set the cooler temperature to -25C.
  6. Go back to the power Power Control link and turn off the observatory web camera. It has IR illuminatiors and they will interfer with your imaging and observatories near you. 
The observatory is now open and ready to work.
Taking Images
    There are several ways to take images remotely.  This section covers the two simplest methods for interactively making images. The simplest method for making an image is to used the Live Observing control on the upper left of the ACP web page.
  1. Click on the Single Image link. After a moment the following dialog will appear:
  2. Fill out the required information field. If desired, you can have dark fields taken automatically by checking the Auto  calibrate box.
  3. When you are satisfied with you values, click on Acquire image the observatory will commence making your image, provided it is visible and within the observatories limits.
    Similarly you can take a sequence of images of an object using multiple filters.  To take a multi-filter image, click on Color Series. The following dialog will appear:
    This command allows you to specify taking one or more images through each of several filters. The expose time for each filter is separately controllable. you may also specify different binning factorys for each filter. Further advanced options include dithering between images and shutting down automatically at the end of the run. This allows you to fire off a long series of exposers and log off knowing that you can log in and check your results later.

Shutting Down The Observatory

    To shut  down the observatory please perform the following steps:
  1. From the Astronomer's Control Panel, click on the Cooler link in the camera column. Warm up the camera slowly.
  2. Once the camera is at a safe temperature, click on the Camera header to put the camera to the "offline" state.
  3. Now click on the Telescope header. The page should indicate that it is now shutting down the observatory and closing the roof. This process can take a couple of minutes, so be patient and wait until the page indicates completion.
  4. Now go to the Power Control web page and turn on the web camera power.
  5. Go to the Observatory Camera page and check that the scope is properly parked and that the roof is fully closed. If you have problems, please contact a systems administrator.
  6. After verifying the observatory closed correctly, go to the Power Control web page and turn off the power on the web camera, science camera and telescope mount.
  7. The observatory is now shut down. You may exit all the web pages.

Retrieving Your Images
    To download your images you will need an FTP client program. We recommend Filezilla, a free, multi-platform, open source FTP client. To retrieve your images, connect to the observatories ip address: To create a permanent site profile in Filezilla,  use the site manager to create a profile similar to the on shown below:
Once you click on connect, you will be logged onto the FTP client and a window like the one below will appear.
    The windows on the right are the files on the observatory server.  The left hand windows are the files on your PC. You can transfer individual files, or whole folders, by right clicking on them and selecting Download. The folders on the server root directory are named by the date of the observation and contain zip compressed copys of your images.  There are also sub folders with the observing logs from each night, and a plans folder where you may upload observing plans that you have created offline.  
    When you have successfully downloaded and backed up your data on you own machine, please use the FTP Client to delete your files. To delete a night's data, simply click on the folder and then press the DEL key on your keyboard. The program will prompt you confirm your deletion. File space on the observatory PC is limited and failure to maintain enough free disk space on the servers will eventually cause the observatory to stop operating.
    For more details on observing plans see the help files on the ACP web pages.