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Special Instructions 2005A

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Instructions for Completion of Phase II/OT Science Programs: Semester 2005A

This page provides instructions for completing Phase II Science Programs  for all Gemini North and Gemini South instruments. It includes submission details and procedural changes. Please read this page carefully!

Note: Beginning with this semester the Phase II deadlines are hard deadlines for queue programs (see details below). Programs that have not completed their Phase II definitions by the deadlines will be dropped from the queue.

Distribution of Phase II Skeletons

All observations must be defined using the Observing Tool (OT) software. Gemini staff have translates approved Phase I proposals into the Phase II format for loading into the OT. In this process, the observations and other details entered in Phase I are used to construct a ("skeleton") framework of your Science Program.

Instructions on skeleton retrieval have been sent to PIs on December 9. As in previous semesters, the Phase II skeletons are downloaded/uploaded directly from/to the Gemini telescope databases to enable more efficient and rapid processing. See more information on using the Observing Database.

A new release of the OT ("grillo") is available to support Semester 2005A Phase II preparation (as well as on-going 2004A and 2004B programs); do not use the previous "cherry" public release. There are OT installation instructions available. If you are unfamiliar with the OT, there is an OT tutorial that provides a useful introduction. In addition, each instrument also has several web pages that provide guidance on observing strategies and how to describe these in the OT.

Relaxation of Observing Condition Constraints and Other Observation Changes

For semester 2005A the queue was constructed by filling the expected observing conditions (and overfilling the poorer than average conditions) but limited to the total available queue time (i.e. the total science time less scheduled classical nights and estimated Band 1 rollover programs). Hence there is no queue Band 4, unlike previous semesters. Band 3 programs, which now occupy the lowest third to half of the queue, are unlikely to be executed, and very unlikely to be completed, if they request conditions that are better than average (especially in cloud cover and image quality).

Starting in 2005A we encourage PIs of Band 3 programs, in particular, to think carefully about relaxing the observation constraints within the context of their overall time allocation and approved science goals (e.g. by observing fewer targets). One useful analogy is to consider "how would I attempt this program if it were classically scheduled and the conditions were sub-optimal?".

If during detailed definition you find that the approved observations need to be modified, please follow the change request procedure.

User Support

The National Gemini Offices are responsible for Phase II support for the "established" facility and visiting instruments as mandated by the Gemini Board. Phase II support for the other instruments remains with the Gemini Observatory staff. In outline, the Phase II process for the established instruments is as follows:

  • PIs interact with NGO support staff to complete Phase II using the OT for all observations with NIRI, including Altair, Phoenix, both GMOSs (including MOS mask design), T-ReCS, GNIRS and Michelle.
  • All Phase II Science Programs are checked by NGO staff prior to being forwarded to the Gemini Contact Scientist. (Note that Gemini CSs will return any Phase II programs that are received directly from PIs, with instructions to contact their NGO).
  • Gemini Contact Scientist checks Phase II Science Programs; if there is any problem the Science Program will be returned to the NGO support staff. The NGO staff will then iterate further with the PI.
  • Only when the Gemini Contact Scientist agrees that the Science Program is ready will it be activated in the queue for execution. The PI will be notified that their program is in the active queue and that the Gemini CS is now the primary contact point.

You can help us and speed this process by checking the program yourself (see the OT/Phase II checklist and instrument-specific checklists on the OT instrument component pages). 

For the other instruments (Acquisition Camera) the Gemini Contact scientist is the first point of contact for programs PIs.

If you wish to change the primary contact for this program, e.g. to a co-I, please e-mail both Sybil Adams (sadams@gemini.edu) and Simon Chan (schan@gemini.edu) with a copy to the relevant Gemini Associate Director (jrroy@gemini.edu for Gemini North, ppuxley@gemini.edu for Gemini South) and a copy to your National Gemini office.

To help us in tracking and resolving user problems, questions and suggestions, and thereby improving the software and web pages, please use the Gemini HelpDesk. This allows us to ensure that no queries are missed and help us improve the software and documentation. A streamlined interface is available for Phase II queries, keyed to your Gemini Program ID (e.g. GS-2005A-Q-12). As with the regular HelpDesk interface, your query will be directed to the specific NGO or Gemini support staff. Support assignments do change occasionally and you can verify the contact names from the "interactive snapshot" of the Observing Database, accessed from the contents list on the schedules web page. (The NGO and Gemini support staff email addresses are listed on the support staff web page).

Deadlines and Mechanism for Return of Completed Science Programs

The mechanism for submitting your completed Phase II Science Program is similar to skeleton retrieval (see the Observing Database information for more details) and is the same for all instruments (although submission of MOS mask definition files, and finding charts, is currently handled separately, outside of the Observing Tool, via direct email to your Gemini Contact Scientist). 

Dates for submission of completed Phase II information are (all 6pm local time):

Phase II deadlines for all instruments
Deadline Notes
12 January Early submission, recommended for any programs and especially advantageous for observations that can be executed early in the semester
10 February Mandatory deadline for all queue programs
various Deadlines for GMOS mask design and MOS updates (several dates, synchronized with lunar phase)

These deadlines apply to all queue programs including templates for Quick Response / ToO observations. (In addition there are periodic deadlines during the semester for GMOS mask design and corresponding MOS observation updates only). 

PIs of all classical programs must also submit Phase II observation definitions. The deadline for these is two weeks prior to the instrument block in which the classical nights are scheduled. (See the 2005A classical schedule and 2005A instrument schedule).

Programs that have not completed their Phase II definitions by the deadlines noted above will be dropped from the queue. In exceptional cases an exemption may be requested by emailing the relevant Gemini Associate Director (jrroy@gemini.edu for Gemini North, ppuxley@gemini.edu for Gemini South)

In some cases GMOS PIs may be contacted directly and asked to submit their Phase II early to provide sufficient observations for pre-imaging and MOS spectroscopy at the very start of the semester. All MOS pre-imaging observation descriptions must be submitted by the regular deadlines (see table above).

OT and Other Late-Breaking Changes for 2005A

The principal changes to the OT software are listed on the OT Hot News page. There are also several new policy changes. Here we summarise how they affect Phase II observation definition and point the user to further details.


The ALTAIR component now has a button by which the PI specifies whether the cassegrain rotator rotates to compensate for field rotation, as is normal practice, or is fixed, as requested for some AO observations.

GMOS North and South

No policy changes for 2005A: PIs must specify all science and baseline calibration observations with the exception of (spectro)photometric standards, bias and flatfield images. See the list of GMOS baseline calibrations for details of the calibrations required.

The flatfield lamp and diffuser inside GCAL were changed earlier in 2004B for GMOS North and South. All GMOS calibrations using GCAL should use the visible diffuser.


PIs must now define and include in their Phase II programs all baseline calibrations (flats, arcs, telluric standards) and acquisition observations. The list of baseline calibrations is available and examples are given on the GNIRS OT help page. An example acquisition observation is given on the same page. 

There is now an extensive description of observing strategies and a Phase II checklist (also linked from an updated GNIRS Performance and Use page). 

Note also the new offset acquisition (including "blind acquisition") procedure described below.


Spectroscopic programs must include two spectroscopic standard stars, one for before and one for after the observation (see updated Michelle baseline calibrations for more details). 

A basic acquisition sequence must be included in all spectroscopic observations. This usually consists of a short Si-5 image taken in normal chop mode. An example is shown the OT library for Michelle (library available as an XML file for import into OT).


There are several changes to the calibration policies (also described on the NIRI calibration page). For each imaging program that is observed, flats will normally be obtained at the end of the night. If the PI requires that the flats be obtained closer in time to the actual science observations, they must request this in a note inserted in the Phase II Science Program. The only standard darks that will be taken each night are short exposure darks to check for bad pixels. If the PI desires darks frames other than the above, they must include them along with a note in the Phase II Science Program. Any such darks will be observed at the end of the night.

Flat and arc exposure times have recently been adjusted. PIs should use calibration observations from the latest update of the OT library for NIRI (library available as an XML file for import into OT).


New instructions for classical observers at Gemini South, as well as for classical Phoenix observers in particular, will shortly be available.


No policy changes for 2005A: PIs must specify acquisition details (as part of sequence or as a separate observation), astrometric and PSF standards if required, as described on the T-ReCS pages.

Updated T-ReCS sensitivities and plots are available.

Offset Acquisitions (Including "Blind Acquisition")

Previously, acquisitions involving an offset from another target were specified by the PI as (delta RA, delta dec) in arcsec in a text note. From this semester, the reference target position must be defined as a User Target in the OT target component, giving the full (RA, dec) coordinates. See the updated telescope acquisition procedures for more details.

Non-sidereal objects

The new OT release supports specification of non-sidereal targets in several of the common systems (JPL Horizons, AsA and MPC). See the updated OT target component editor page for more details.

Calibration Time Accounting

There is no change to calibration time accounting policies; baseline calibrations, as described on the instrument pages, continue to be charged to the partner country and not to the individual science program. However, to assist PIs in defining their observations and optimizing their use of allocated time, a new calibration checkbox in the OT observation component toggles whether or not that observation is included in the total time summation. PIs should set baseline calibration observations in this way. (This feature is not, yet, available for calibrations included as part of a science observation sequence).

Classical Time Accounting  

At its November 2004 meeting, the Gemini Board endorsed a recommendation from the Gemini Science Committee that classical time be charged at 75% of the rate of queue time e.g. a nominal 10hr classical night would be charged as 7.5hr to the partner countries involved. 

Notification of Data Taken

On the OT observation component there is a now a "Notify PI" checkbox. When checked it will (shortly) send a brief email to the PI whenever data are taken for the program (at the moment it doesn't do anything!). 

Status of Submitted Programs and Observations

The 2005A queue summary and "interactive database snapshot" pages show the current execution status of all queue programs and indicates when data have been taken. (For the next level of detail, click on the "execution status" link under each program to see the status of each observation or on the execution log links in the contents list to see which observations were executed each night).

Last update December 8, 2004; Phil Puxley

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