La Silla Observatory



Re-Engineering Project:
Common Control Room


Prepared Olivier Hainaut 2002-01-22
Reviewed Martin Kurster 2002-02-22
Released Jorge Melnick 2002-

Revision History
2002-01-22 first version for review, ohainaut
2002-02-22 included review comments



The NTT control room must be taken out of the NTT rotating structure. For this purpose, a project was designed. Just before the closure of the 2001 budget, it was possible to extend that project so that it would fit 3 control rooms. Funds are secured on the 2001 budget, so SciOp has the possibility to use that building. The drawbacks are that a full project, with study and full review is not possible, as the construction must start in order to fulfill the original purpose of the building, i.e. contain the NTT control room.


On 2002-01-22, we had a brainstorming meeting in order to evaluate the pros and cons of a common control room for the 3 main telescopes to be operated by SciOp, and some discussion about its ideal location.

The outcome of that session (which is summarized below), is the following:
  1. A common control room has some clear disadvantages, most of them of technical nature. Many of these could/should be solved whether a common control room is implemented or not.
  2. A common control room has some advantages, most of them of non-technical, "philosophical", un-quantified nature. The advantages are stronger for the astronomers ("more interaction", "more efficient support"), then for the night TIOs, while a control room will not change much or degrade the day operation.
As a consequence, it was decided that:
  1. At the beginning of the SciOp era, the telescopes will NOT be operated from a single common control room. Only the NTT will move to the new building, and will serve as a test bench for the semi-remote operation.
  2. The new building should be built and installed having in mind a possible future joint operation of 2 or 3 of the main telescopes (plus automatic telescopes: at least DIMM, maybe SCIDAR, and possibly GRBs). The migration of 2p2 and 3p6 could take place in some undetermined future depending on the success of the NTT remote observations, of the evolution of needs, and of the evolution of the instrumentation of these telescopes. As an example, one could conceive to have HARPS operated from the new building, but the other 3p6 instruments still from the 3p6 building, and to have FEROS@2p2 from the new building but not WFI (these are just examples).
  3. Unless a bright alternative project is submitted before Thu.2002-01-24, the construction will take place at the bottom of the NTT ramp. If another site appears, that has clear advantages over that site, a study (ground, mechanics, structure) will be requested, and the final decision will be taken based on that study.
Were present in Vitacura: Emilio Barrios, Gaspare Lo Curto, George Hau, Leonardo Vanzi, Lisa Germany, Michael Sterzick, Olivier Hainaut, Rene Mendez, and in la Silla: Juan Fluxa, Martin Kurster and Paul Le Saux.



These notes are based on the "white board discussion". I changed the order of some of the points in order to group them in logical units, and I try to summarize the discussion in an unbiased way (which is of course impossible). This is the outcome of a brain storming session, and is therefore not very structured.


This discussion took place late in the meeting, and many participants had already left. As it was decided during the 1st part of the meeting that the building would host only the NTT control room (at least at the beginning), the NTT site has some priority. Nevertheless, other sites were considered, summarized below, to see if some site would have very strong advantages:

  1. Bottom of the NTT ramps, in front of the sarcophagus. This site is the only one which got a complete soil, structure and feasibility study (that were used in the budget preparation). Pros: technically ready, near the telescopes (i.e. closest possible for NTT and 3p6), faces downwind, close to the other telescopes (Swiss/SEST), too far from Hotel to get non-desired visits. Cons: too far from the hotel to walk, will maintain or increase the current traffic.
  2. Below the 2p2, near where the first generation dorms used to be. Pros: on/near the backbone close to 2p2, fairly close to dorms 3/4 (permitting the VA to walk - although it is not clear they will want to walk with their lap-top, obs. documents, etc...). This location would in theory permit to close the upper part of the obs. to unauthorized traffic at night (how would we enforce this?). It is also less likely to be isolated in case of snow. Cons: no access road (has to be built $$$), no parking, faces up wind. Feasibility probable, but unclear.
  3. Near the hotel, either next to it, or below it (library parking).  Pros: at the center of La Silla, walking distance from everything but the telescopes. Cons: the furthest from the telescopes; too close to la Silla center (we would get many visits), no view (library site), feasibility unclear (esp. network; that part of the net is by far the worse of LSO).
All the sites have pros and cons, none being extremely strong. The major pro for site 2/3 is their relative proximity to the hotel, which would permit to lower the night traffic. Nevertheless, in the case of an NTT-only control room, this distance is an con more than a pro.

As an outcome, we decided to delay the final decision till Thu. evening. If by that time, no major point for an alternate location was identified, or if no major pro/con for or against one of these location was identified, instructions would be given to start construction at site 1. At the time this document was finalized, Site 1 was chosen.