12 July 2008 Operating a wide-area remote observing system for the W. M. Keck Observatory
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Abstract
For over a decade, the W. M. Keck Observatory's two 10-meter telescopes have been operated remotely from its Waimea headquarters. Over the last 6 years, WMKO remote observing has expanded to allow teams at dedicated sites in California to observe either in collaboration with colleagues in Waimea or entirely from the U.S. mainland. Once an experimental effort, the Observatory's mainland observing capability is now fully operational, supported on all science instruments (except the interferometer) and regularly used by astronomers at eight mainland sites. Establishing a convenient and secure observing capability from those sites required careful planning to ensure that they are properly equipped and configured. It also entailed a significant investment in hardware and software, including both custom scripts to simplify launching the instrument interface at remote sites and automated routers employing ISDN backup lines to ensure continuation of observing during Internet outages. Observers often wait until shortly before their runs to request use of the mainland facilities. Scheduling these requests and ensuring proper system operation prior to observing requires close coordination between personnel at WMKO and the mainland sites. An established protocol for approving requests and carrying out pre-run checkout has proven useful in ensuring success. The Observatory anticipates enhancing and expanding its remote observing system. Future plans include deploying dedicated summit computers for running VNC server software, implementing a web-based tracking system for mainland-based observing requests, expanding the system to additional mainland sites, and converting to full-time VNC operation for all instruments.
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Gregory D. Wirth, Gregory D. Wirth, Robert I. Kibrick, Robert I. Kibrick, Robert W. Goodrich, Robert W. Goodrich, James E. Lyke, James E. Lyke, "Operating a wide-area remote observing system for the W. M. Keck Observatory", Proc. SPIE 7016, Observatory Operations: Strategies, Processes, and Systems II, 70160Y (12 July 2008); doi: 10.1117/12.790069; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.790069
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