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Special Instructions 2008A

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Instructions for Completion of Phase II/OT Science Programs: Semester 2008A

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: As in the previous semester the Phase II deadline is a hard deadline for queue programs (see details below). Programs that have not completed their Phase II definitions by the deadline 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 translated 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 were sent to PIs during the week of December 10. 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 ("tabano") is available to support Semester 2008A Phase II preparation (as well as on-going 2007A and 2007B programs); do not use the previous "vinchuca" 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. OT libraries with example observations and configurations for each instrument can also be fetched. The 2008A OT has a new feature with makes it easier to fetch and update these libraries.

Relaxation of Observing Condition Constraints and Other Observation Changes

For semester 2008A 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). Band 3 programs, which occupy the lowest 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).

Programs in Band 3 will be expected to use the relaxed Band 3 conditions that were specified during Phase I. It is always acceptable to relax the conditions even more since more relaxed conditions leads to a higher probability of execution (see Advice for Band 3 PIs).  One useful analogy is to consider "how would I attempt this program if it were classically scheduled and the conditions were sub-optimal?".

In semester 2008A we are continuing the "poor weather queue". This is a program to fill telescope time under very poor, but usable, conditions. Time spent on these programs will not be charged to the PI or the partner countries. These are queue programs only but are distinct from the "regular" band 1 to band 3 queue. They will be executed only when nothing in the regular queue is observable.  In all other respects (Phase II deadlines, NGO and contact scientist support, science archive data distribution) they are identical to other Gemini programs.

If your program is in the poor weather queue, it will be designated as "Band 4" above (and in the Phase II definition); it will also be identified as such in the ITAC comments.

Acceptable observing condition constraints for poor weather programs are:

  • CC=70%, 90% or "Any" and IQ="Any" and WV="Any" (no restriction on SB)
  • CC=90% or "Any" and WV="Any" (no restriction on IQ and SB)

The Observing Conditions component now also makes it possible to add airmass or hour angle constraints. While needed for some programs, use of these constraints is equivalent to a change to better conditions constraints than approved by the ITAC.  Therefore, any use of the airmass or hour angle constraints requires approval via the change request procedure.

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). 

If you wish to change the primary contact for this program, e.g. to a co-I, please e-mail Brian Walls (bwallsgemini.edu) with a copy to the Gemini Heads of Science Operations (ijorgensengemini.edu, brodgersgemini.edu) 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-2006B-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 by using the Store command in the Observing Tool and is the same for all instruments.  See the Observing Database information for more details. 

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

Phase II deadlines for all instruments
Deadline Notes
14 January 2008 Mandatory deadline for all queue programs.  
various Deadlines for GMOS mask design and MOS updates (Masks cut after the 1st and 15th of each month)
15 February
10 March
10 April
9 May
30 May
9 June
Dates of preparation of LGS targets lists by Gemini staff for approval by Space Command. Change requests for target additions and alterations must be made well in advance of these dates for the target to be included in the next LGS run, and observations set to "ready" at least two days prior. (These restrictions do not apply to LGS programs granted ToO status.)

The mandatory deadline applies to all queue programs including templates for Quick Response / ToO observations.  The mask design deadlines are more flexible but we encourage PIs to submit their mask designs and final MOS observations as early as possible. The LGS target list preparation dates are subject to change if LGS runs are rescheduled.

PIs of all classical programs must also submit Phase II observation definitions. The deadline for these is three weeks prior to the first scheduled night.

Programs that have not completed their Phase II definitions by the deadline noted above will be dropped from the queue or schedule. In exceptional cases an exemption may be requested by emailing the Heads of Science Operations (ijorgensengemini.edu, brodgersgemini.edu)

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 deadline (see table above).

OT and Other Late-Breaking Changes for 2008A

The principal changes to the OT software are listed on the OT Release Notes 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.

GMOS mask designs without GMOS pre-imaging

We have implemented the capability for the design of GMOS MOS masks from any available imaging with good astrometry.  This has the potential to save observing time since pre-imaging with GMOS will no longer be required.  In 2008A is offered on an "at risk" basis. PIs who are interested in utilizing this should inform their contact scientists.

Major new OT capabilities and procedure changes  

  • The OT has a new feature for fetching and updating the OT example libraries. This will make it easier to get the needed libraries and to keep them updated.
  • The MOS mask design deadlines and mask cutting dates have been simplified. MOS masks will be cut after the 1st and 15th of each month.
  • Standard TOO observations are now triggered via the OT and no additional emails need to be sent.

Notification of Data Taken and Electronic Distribution

The "Notify PI" checkbox in the OT observation component is not yet active. Nonetheless, raw data are available "immediately" (usually within minutes) from the Gemini Science Archive using your OT (observing database) key for secure access to proprietary data. PIs will be notified by email once their data have been quality assessed and ingested into the archive and are available as a package along with other metadata (observing logs, calibrations etc). See more information about data retrieval from GSA

Status of Submitted Programs and Observations

The 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 January 29th, 2008; Rachel Mason

Gemini Observatory Participants