Observer Setup

These are directions for observers in the CTIO console room to get started with SISPI at the beginning of their shift. SISPI is the DECam data acquisition system. You might find it useful to familiarize yourself with the SISPI User Guide
before your arrive at CTIO. Most of the setup routines described below are now handled by the Blanco observations support team.


  1. When you get to the console room it is assumed that SISPI is already running. If this is not the case you will need the help of an expert (DES run manager, instrument scientist, telops and obssup or somebody from the SISPI group) to start a SISPI instance for you. The expert will start the instance in a VNC session on system1.
  2. To configure the observer console machine you will need the DECamObserver password. You will receive this and other information related to your observing run from CTIO.
  3. To use the SISPI console you will need your SISPI GUI login username and password. You will receive this and other information related to your observing run from CTIO.

Startup Procedure

  1. If necessary ask an expert (see above) to start a SISPI instance.
  2. In the console room, the machine with 8 monitors is observer1. If no session is running, log in to this machine as DECamObserver. If a desktop session is already active check with the DES run manager or the instrument scientist if you can use this session or if the current user should be logged out.
  3. Ask telops/observation support to start up the SISPI GUIs. Occasionally (and only if you can not find an expert) you might have to do this yourself. The GUIs can be started either by double clicking the DES logo on the desktop, or single clicking on the DES logo in the menu bar then single clicking on the DES logo in the dropdown box.
    It will take a moment for the windows to open; do not run the startup script twice or you'll get a lot of windows! You should see:
    • Lots of browser windows for the SISPI GUIs showing a splash screen.
    • Browser window for RASICAM.
    • A Skype icon in the menu bar. This will be logged in to the DECamObserver skype account, and contain contacts for several DECam and SISPI experts.
  4. Log in to one of the SISPI GUI windows. This login will propagate to all the other SISPI windows. Use DECamObserver as username. The DES propid serves as password. It is critical that you do this on the observer1 machine first.

SISPI Configuration

You may need to configure SISPI before you can start observing. The Observer Console GUI will be used for this:
  1. First you have to provide information regarding your program. Click on the System Control tab and check the information.

    If you need to add or change anything click on the Edit button and edit values in the text fields. When you are done, click the Save button to submit the information. The values you enter here will be reflected in the primary FITS header of your images. Note that SISPI requires that this step is complete with a valid proposal ID before it can be configured.
    • Prop-Id is your NOAO/CTIO proposal Id. For DES use 2012B-0001
    • Under Observers enter the names of the people on shift
    • You don't have to fill out the program and proposer fields - this information is retrieved for you from the proposal database.
    • Click Save
  2. Now you are ready to configure SISPI. To do so, check that the correct constants version is displayed and click the "Configure" button in the Observer Console browser window. You can learn about the constants version that should be used from your operations experts or the SISPI Daily News page in the expert section. Configuration might take 30 seconds to a minute. If it takes significantly longer or at the end of the process, the Observer Console window does not look like the screenshot shown below, you need to contact an expert for help. Check these indicators:
    • Monitor has to be green
    • Interlock has to be green
    • Setup has to be green
    • OCS has to be green and (READY)
    • In the title bar check that DECam is Ready.
    • The Vsub and exposure loop indicators can be either green, yellow or red at this point.
  3. Now SISPI is ready to take exposures. But the camera is not - when you start your nightly observing program and calibrations you will have to turn on Vsub, the CCD bias voltage. For safety reasons do not do this now but wait until you are ready to start your program. Vsub is controlled by the Vsub button on the observer console GUI.


Information about current Problems and Issues

Please read these two documents in the afternoon. They are intended to provide you with information about (recent) problems and how to handle them so that we can recover from the error with minimal loss of time.

Browser Problems

We have a known problem with the SISPI GUIs and every few hours or so the web browser fails and displays some blank screen like

If you are using FireFox the most likely symptom is that the browser becomes very sluggish and eventually crashes. We expect that we have some resource or memory leak in the javascript code but so far we have not been able to find it. This problem does not affect the SISPI instance including the OCS and the exposure queue. Just refresh the page and the GUI reappears.

If all of the GUIs are sluggish and you'd like to clean them all up, you can run a cleanup script from the toolbar:

And then restart the GUIs using the startup script: