What is AEON?
The Astronomical Event Observatory Network (AEON) is a facility ecosystem for accessible and efficient follow up of astronomical transients and Time Domain science.
At the heart of the network, NOIRLab, with its SOAR 4.1m and Gemini 8m telescopes (and soon the CTIO Blanco 4m), has joined forces with Las Cumbres Observatory to build such a network for the era of the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). SOAR is the pathfinder facility for incorporating the 4m and 8m class telescopes into AEON. Gemini Observatory currently works within AEON using the standard queue process. Observation requests for targets of opportunity (ToOs) can be submitted programmatically via the Gemini plugin in the TOM Toolkit or any Python script.
A recent article on Science magazine features AEON and the windows into Time Domain, Multi-Messenger Astronomy, and general astronomical programs that this project will open up for the astronomical community in the near future. For a quick, simple introduction to AEON, watch the video below.
AEON is now seeking to expand to additional telescopes. This page at the Las Cumbres website describes the initiative, and we link here to our written note. Participation in AEON may be an interesting option for international groups taking part in the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). As announced by Vera C. Rubin Observatory, one of several possible in-kind contributions to the LSST is, “Observing time, dedicated to proposals led by US PIs, at key non-US facilities”. In accordance with the NOIRLab Open-sky policy, any qualified scientist may compete in peer reviewed competition for facility access, and this policy extends to AEON. Potential participants with special requirements are invited to initiate a conversation.
After successful testing during 2018-and early 2019, SOAR and NOIRLab started offering AEON-SOAR observations in shared-risk mode for 2019B. For the 2020A semester we rolled out this new operational mode as a new regular, generally available capability on SOAR. AEON brings a new observing mode for SOAR: a highly automated observing queue run with minimal human intervention. At present, guide star acquisition, and on-slit acquisition of the science target (for spectroscopic observations), are the only tasks done manually. As has always been the case, Telescope Operators also assess the observing conditions and have the authority and means to start/stop the AEON-queue based on weather or because of technical reasons. Other than these, the AEON-queue on SOAR is created entirely in an unsupervised, automatic way by a scheduler software at Las Cumbres Observatory, which takes all requests submitted by the various program PIs, and sorts them according to a number of parameters, which include (but not limited to) position on the sky, distance to the Moon and airmass constraints, SOAR minimum and maximum elevation limits, time window specified in the observing request.