13 September 2012 A minimalist operating mode for UKIRT
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Abstract
In late 2010, driven by funding pressure from its governing body, the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) underwent the most significant operational change in its history culminating in a new "minimalist mode" operation. Since 13th December 2010 this telescope, situated at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, has been operated remotely from the Joint Astronomy Centre in Hilo, with a priority on completing the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS) but also continued support of other international programmes. In mid-2012, while remaining in minimalist mode, the observatory plans to start a new and ambitious near-infrared survey of the northern sky called the UKIRT Hemisphere Survey. The change to minimalist mode has resulted in the following: the cost of running the observatory has been reduced from $3.9M to $2.0M yet despite the changes, which included a reduction in staff and support, the UKIRT continues to operate at 90% efficiency, a level it has operated at for the last several years. The fault rate remains extremely low (approximately 3%) and has not been affected by remote operations and up until February 2012 no time-losing faults were attributed to operating remotely. This paper discusses the motivations behind the change to minimalist mode, the new mode of operation itself, the effect, if any, of the change on operational efficiency and the challenges facing a remotely operated telescope at a remote mountain site.
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Tom Kerr, Gary R. Davis, Simon C. Craig, Craig Walther, Tim Chuter, "A minimalist operating mode for UKIRT", Proc. SPIE 8448, Observatory Operations: Strategies, Processes, and Systems IV, 84481G (13 September 2012); doi: 10.1117/12.924864; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.924864
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