ULTRASPEC Observing Checklist

A basic checklist for a typical night of observing with ULTRASPEC at the TNT.

Version: 18th November 2013, Liam Hardy


  1. Ensure that last night's data has copied correctly. Check all of last night's runs have moved from the /data directory to the /data/*date* directory on the rack and make sure all the runs are present on /media/ultracam_usb30/*date* on the drpc.
  2. Start the observing system, the Lakeshore temperature logger, and the html log (slogger).
  3. Change any filters necessary. Remember to update the filter database on usdriver.
  4. Take at least 50 full frame, slow, 1x1 binning biases. If time, repeat for each read-out mode and with 2x2. Check the noise levels and make sure you are satisfied.
  5. Take biases for all configurations from the previous night (pipeline function "missbias" may be useful here).
  6. Check that the engineers have filled the cryostat, logging the pressures and temperatures in the book.
  7. Prepare finding charts for your upcoming targets using usfinder. It may be useful to check the visibility of your targets using the ING's object visibility tool. Be aware of the telecom tower, which sits between azimuths of 25 and 50 degrees, and extends to 73.5 degrees elevation.
  8. Prepare for sky flats by choosing an appropriate blank sky region near the zenith and away from the moon from the list in the red ULTRASPEC folder.

Start of night

  1. Take sky flats (narrow band filter first, then broad going blue towards red). Have the TOs spiral the telescope.
  2. If the weather is photometric, observe a standard star.
  3. Consider using the standard star to check for the best focus position. A list of SDSS standard stars can be found in the red folder.
  4. Move on to science targets.

For each target

  1. Ask TO to slew to requested target and rotator position angle.
  2. Make sure the TO clears any previous offsets.
  3. Check shutter positions - if your target is below 40° you will need the front shutter raised.
  4. Check the rotator position in case it is approaching the limits at -220 and +250 degrees. If it is, consider making a 360 rotation before you begin observing.
  5. Use the acquire run type to check the position and brightness of your target and comparison stars.
  6. Check the background level (counts per pixel) and also the read noise if possible in order to judge whether it might be a good idea to bin.
  7. Ensure the focal plane mask is in the correct position and you are using the correct filter.
  8. Once taking data, setup the reduction ASAP - keep an eye out for tracking or rotator glitches.
  9. Make detailed comments on each run for slogger.
  10. If using windows which include the overscan regions, use the bias Checker program to monitor bias and read noise levels.

End of night

  1. Another chance for sky flats and SDSS standards if you missed any during evening twilight.
  2. Make sure all runs have a comment for the log file.
  3. Exit slogger cleanly.
  4. Shut down the observing system.
  5. Archive the data using the end_of_night_tasks script.
  6. Check that the engineers will fill the cryostat.
  7. Go to bed.

If it is the end of an ULTRASPEC run and the instrument will not be used for a few nights, power down the rack PC, the SDSU controller, the filter wheel and the focal plane mask.