AEON on SOAR
Updated July 29, 2021
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.
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 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.
After successful testing during 2018-and early 2019, SOAR and NOIRLab now offer AEON-SOAR observations, both imaging and low resolution spectroscopy, as a regular capability. In addition to dynamic, programmatically accessible scheduling, AEON on SOAR provides a web-based real-time spectroscopic data reduction pipeline, which allows our Goodman spectrograph users to get 1-dimensional, wavelength-calibrated spectra just seconds after the raw data have been written to disk, all on their web browser, without the need to download any software. The SOAR AEON queue includes an observation of a spectrophotometric standard star every night. AEON brings a new observing mode for SOAR: a highly automated observing queue run with minimal human intervention.
For 2021B we are running 14 science programs, scheduled for 23 nights. The actual number of nights each semester will ultimately depend on the demand and numbers of successful programs that request this observing mode.
Observing with AEON on SOAR
Astronomers can request observations either through the Las Cumbres Observation Portal, or via standardized, programmable interfaces, using established APIs, supported by the Target Observation Manager (TOM) Toolkit.
Once time is awarded, users will find that their active proposals are listed under the 'Manage Proposals' tab and they will be able to request observations. The time needed to execute an observation is debited automatically from the relevant proposal, but only once each observation is completed. If a request cannot be scheduled, no time is debited.
Observations can be requested by filling out the observation request form, or programmatically by submitting a request to our API. We strongly encourage users to read the Las Cumbres Observatory Getting Started Guide, available from their Help page; it describes the procedure step-by-step. Detailed information on using the APIs can be found at at this link.
Monitoring Your Observing Program
The homepage of a user's Observation Portal will show a list of all of the observations they have requested. Clicking on any observation will display more information on each component of the request, including a wealth of information on its scheduling status, the target visibility, and any data obtained - all updated in real-time. The "Getting Started on the LCO Global Telescope Network" guide in the help page describes the available information in more detail. You can also find information on the status of telescopes in the network.
Access to your data....in real time!
As soon as an observation is written to disk at SOAR, the raw Goodman data products are transferred automatically and made available through the Las Cumbres Observatory Archive, and also the NOIRLab Science Archive. Both archives provide the means for users to download the data products.
The SOAR Team has developed a live automated data reduction pipeline for Goodman data. This pipeline runs in realtime during every AEON night at SOAR, reducing both imaging and spectroscopic data in real time. Seconds after your spectrum is written to disc, the 1-D wavelength-calibrated is produced and displayed in a web browser window. This provides an alternative means for users to download the data as it is obtained. For more details go to the Goodman Live Pipeline page.
Where to get help
AEON is a collaboration between Las Cumbres Observatory SOAR, Gemini and NOIRLab. The AEON Team gratefully acknowledges funding from the NSF.