Run notes

  • To Do here:
    • add table of contents
    • add links for everything that might be needed
    • add times at which things are current
    • make processes more clearly numbered and sequential

These are new notes on running DECam for observers and run managers. These are notes for folks who have done this before but need a refresher. It is also meant to concisely summarize the rest of the bloated and occasionally self-contradictory wiki.

Before Arriving on Mountain


  • Early Winter/Spring clothing
  • Hygiene
    • If you dry easily: eye drops, saline spray (nasal), lotion.
    • Sunscreen: UV index can be quite high
    • Coffee: coordinate with fellow observers if you want decent coffee. a 1-pound bag usually lasts a single run.
    • Lighting: they provide flashlights, but they don't always work well.

Who will you be working with


Upon Arrival

  1. Arrive at CTIO via Carry-All
  2. Check in and get keys at Rotunda. If there are cars available, you can request one to travel from dorms to Blanco. The walk is pretty nice too if it's good weather.
  3. Dorms/dining hall are down the hill a bit from the Rotunda
  4. Get dinner 5pm - 6:30pm (or lunch 1pm - 2pm)
  5. Walk or drive up to Blanco
    1. If you are a day early, ask the current users of Blanco/DECam if you can check out the control room.
    2. If you are observing on the current night, try to be at the 4pm meeting in Blanco control room before dinner.



Run Manager

  • Check Nightsum from previous night ( you can use this to help determine if a 4pm meeting is necessary.
  • Call 4pm Meeting (if necessary or if requested)
    • Phone number (Chile): 9-800-201-836, code = 7691719#
    • email as early in the afternoon as possible.
    • Email template:
      Subject: 4pm is on (or off)
      Body :
      Good morning,
      There's a lot going on. Let's jam.  4 PM CTIO time.  
      1. Weather conditions (
      2. Obstac/Plan
      3. Data Quality [including SN assessment]
      4. AOB
      Call-in information:
      ReadyTalk Number: 7691719#
  • Check the system set-up (By 3:30 pm)
    • Has SISPI been restarted?
    • Have the evening calibrations been started?
  • Observing Plan:
    • Has a ToO (Target of Opportunity) been requested?
  • Call into 4pm meeting
    • Discuss plan with observers if necessary (usually, only if there's a change, like a ToO or if the weather is bad)
  • Go to dinner
  • Get back to telescope about 1 hour before observations are to start to make sure system is still ready to go.
  • Watch the start of observations or train observers
  • Hang out for a while
  • Go to dorm: leave your room telephone number in case there's an issue
  • Apply Data Quality
    • Log into Observer2 as sispi
      • observer2/1 prompt> ssh sispi [use sispi password, probably on white board]
      • sispi@observer2 prompt> setup RunManagerTools
      • sispi@observer2 prompt> appy_data_gui
      • gui opens
      • click on "Fetch and Load"
      • briefly check the list to get a feel for what passed and what failed data quality assessment [no need to make modifications]
      • Do not make any modifications in this window.
      • click on "Apply"
      • click "OK" on the pop-up
      • click "Quick"

Observer 1

  • Be prepared to use or learn to use the main console: SISPI
    • TelOps will start SISPI and log in before we begin observing
    • Review the DECam User Guide, before arrival if possible
  • DECam E-log:
    • You will be recording most of the events for the night. The specifics will be up to the run manager, but generally we record anything that is a deviation from normal operations. This includes SISPI errors, telescope errors, weather issues, etc.
    • Log into this with username DECamObserver [password: see Run Manager]
  • Log into skype: DECamObserver [password: see Run Manager]
  • Beginning observations:
    • run ephem in kentools to see local times for different relevant events (sunset, moonset, etc.)
    • Zeros (3)
    • Turn Vsub On
    • Zeros Vsub-on Flush run (ONLY at -10 deg sun)
      • Exposure Control -> Load Exposure Script -> Select DECam Script -> DES/flush_Vsub.json
    • Pointing
      • Exposure Control -> Type: object. Filter: r. Ask TelObs for Exposure Time (usually 3 sec)
    • run center from kentools prompt. If offset in RA and/or Dec >90", give TelObs offsets to adjust. If >20", ask Observer2/run manager
    • Standards (if not cloudy) : need link to this page
      • run standards from kentools prompt. This will give currently available standard stars
      • Exposure Control -> Load Exposure Script -> Select DECam Script -> select appropriate standard .json file (use Yzirg version)
    • Defocus
      • Exposure Control -> Load Exposure Script -> Select DECam Script -> DES/defocus_nightly.json
    • Start ObsTac ("Enable Auto")
  • Conclude observations:
    • End ObsTac ("Disable Auto")
    • Standards (grizY) [when exactly should this be done?]
    • run defocus script (maybe; seek guidance)
    • Click "Safe Mode" to put the block filter in
    • (run one more thing, but I forget what it is.)?

Observer 2

  • DES NightSum: DES Night Summary (see also Introduction_to_the_nightsum).
    • start a nightsum from a template, which can be found in DECamObserver@observer2>: any of them will do for now, but try to go for the one with the latest date.
    • Cut-and-paste your draft DES Night Summary into the DECam Electronic Logbook
      • Use "Category: Synopsis_Night"
      • Click on "Textile formatted" button
      • Highlight "Summary" tag
      • Paste the text of the file into the entry/text field
    • Copy and paste this text into the CTIO Night report also
    • log into observer2 as user sispi
    • set up the environment:
      $ setup nightsum
    • run the makesum script:
      $ cd ~sispi/nightsum-reports
      $ makesum
    • Check your results by pointing your browser to
      @ file:///usr/remote/user/sispi/nightsum-reports/nightsum-<YYYY>-<MM>-<DD>/nights
    • publish the summary when it's done making the nightsum.
      $ pubsum