La Silla Observatory



Re-Engineering Project:
Structure and Operation


Prepared Olivier Hainaut 2002-02-10
Reviewed Michael Sterzik 2002-
Released Jorge Melnick 2002-
SciOp Internal Use Only
For Review

Revision History
0.1 2002-02-10 first draft, ohainaut
0.9 2002-02-22 major revision after general meeting



This document is the result of the discussion that took place on Thu. 2002 Feb 14 at la Silla and Vitacura, based on an earlier draft of this document. Were present at that meeting, in La Silla, Andres Gonzalez Ariel Sanchez Cristian Esparza Eduardo Celis Emilio Barrios Francisco Labrana Gaetano Andreoni George Hau Jose Cortes Karla Aubel Lisa Germany Malvina Billeres Martin Kurster Olivier Hainaut Rolando Vega Yvo Saviane, and in Vitacura, Gaspare Lo Curto Kate Brooks Leonardo Vanzi.

This document discusses the general structure of the Science Operation Department (SciOp) of La Silla, in the framework of the restructuration of the 2p2, 3p6 and NTT teams. This document will eventually become part of a larger document describing the Science Operation Department as a whole.


It will be clear to the reader that the TIOs are getting much more responsibilities than in the past. The reason for this is that the TIOs are the ones who actually run the observatory, not the astronomers. Indeed, TIOs tend to have a longer life time in the organization (time scale of 10yrs) than the astronomers (time scale of 2yrs), therefore, they can accumulate much more experience and have a very broad overview of the telescopes and instrumentation. This is acknowledged in this plan, whose global idea is to distribute the responsiblities to whom they naturally below: a question about the best strategy to observe the spectral variability of a quasar in the near IR is for an astronomer, but a question about the best way to select and acquire a guide star in a crowded field for spectroscopic chopping-and-nodding observations is for the TIO.


In this document, "he" and "his" refer to the position described. In practice, these position can be occupied by people of any known or unknown gender, but I tend to miss half of the polically correct he/she his/her. So, this note replaces them all.





SciOp provides astronomical data to its clients, as well as the information needed by the clients

SciOp does not provide the scientific idea for which the data are needed, and does not interpret astrophysically the data, although the astronomers belonging to SciOp do it for their own projects, and are therefore experts whose experience is of great value when assisting the clients.

The data produced by SciOp (including those produced by Visiting Astronomers) must be of the best achievable technical quality (e.g. instrument always in focus), and must be calibrated -or, more specifically calibratable, i.e. they must be accompanied by a set of auxiliary data that allows the astronomer to fully remove the instrumental signature of the instrument (flat field, standard stars, etc.). These auxiliary data are defined in the calibration plan of each instrument.


The "clients" of SciOp are the members of the international astronomical community at large, and prioritarilly them astronomers of the ESO member states.

More specifically, these includes:


In an "ISO-9001" point of view, the processes that belong to SciOp are the following:



The SciOp Department will be constituted of Astronomers, Telescope and Instrument Operators (TIOs) and Operation Engineers. The main differences with the current Team structure are the following:

The main difference between La Silla SciOp and Paranal SciOp is that, in La Silla, SciOp "owns" the telescopes and instruments, on which the support teams and departments will perform work for us. In Paranal, the Engineering Dptm owns the telescope and instruments, and lend them to SciOp for the night. The main advantage of the La Silla scheme is that SciOp owns the complete processes (c.f. previous section).



Each instrument (e.g. EMMI, WFI...) will have an INSTRUMENT SCIENTIST (astronomer) and an INSTRUMENT TIO. Together, the Instrument Scientist and Instrument TIO form the INSTRUMENT NUCLEUS that concentrate all the expertise on the instrument: if there is some info or knowledge on the instrument, the nucleus should have it.

The role of the instrument scientist will be very similar to that of the current instrument scientist, i.e. more specifically

Note that it is not expected that the instrument scientist will perform all the support on his instrument.


He will be assisted by a TIO, who will be the expert of that instrument both for day and night operation. The role of the Instrument TIO can be summarized as following:

It is important to note that the Instrument TIO does not have to work only on that instrument. The "Instrument TIO" job is more a background task that he can perform during his "background turno" (former Mid-Day/Mid-Night, cf below), during the night (long exposures), during the day (phone calls), etc... While it is desirable that he keeps accumulating experience on the instrument (e.g. operating it at night, performing set-up at day, etc), it is also important that he spends some "background" time on the instrument, e.g. when performing some tests while it is in the lab. In summary, the actions related to the "Instrument TIO" job have a time-scale of weeks/months (following up problems, testing new modes) and not day-by-day.

Also, only one TIO is "Instrument TIO" for a given instrument, not 2, in order not to dilute responsibility. Of course, the Instrument TIO can appoint one or various delegates, for instance in his contra-turno, or to tackle with a specific issue, but he will remain the one "officially" in charge.

From the administrative point of view, the "Instrument TIO" title will appear in the Goals and Objective. The evaluation criteria will be (these are examples, not an exhaustive list): efficiency in following up problem reports (not in solving them, which is the task of the person/deptm to whom the problem is assigned), efficiency in performing the calibration plan, in coaching other TIOs, etc. For the first year, there will of course be some real-time adjustments to the G&O: the idea is definitely not to sack anybody on this new responsibility, but to get the best out of the system, and to get the system as good as posssible.


In a similar way, each telescope (NTT, 3.6, 2.2) will have a Telescope Scientist and Telescope TIO, forming a Telescope Nucleus. The Telescope Nucleus has the same role for the telescope and related systems as the Instrument Nucleus for the instruments. For instance, the mirrors, domes, hydraulics, etc... are under the Telescope Scientist/TIO Nucleus' responsibility.


The various Instrument Nuclei can be combined into "INSTRUMENT FORCES"; the various Instrument Forces that come into mind are:

These forces should exchange expertise at all levels: observation procedures, data reduction, hints and tips, etc. Also, the Instrument Scientist of one of the instrument will almost automatically be able to give basic support on the others. This should foster communication between the current teams. One nucleus can belong to several Forces. Other forces could be considered, eg 2p2 (=2p2 + WFI + FEROS), NTT (= NTT+EMMI+SUSI+SOFI), 3p6 (=3p6+ EFOSC+ TIMMI + CES/HARPS)

Note that it is not expected from the Instrument Forces to do all the support/operation of their respective instrument (it is not feasible, for instance SofI is used ~150n/yr, and TIMMI about 100n/yr, totalling 250n/yr, i.e. too much for 2 astronomers even if they were doing only support).

At this point, I suggeste that the 5 above-mentioned forces should meet briefly, but fairly formally (e.g. every 2 months), with the following aggenda:

Each of these meeting should be summarize briefly in a "bi-monthly instrument force report", which will 1/ diffuse the info to SciOp as a whole, 2/ document and archive the problems, acheivement, hints and tips..., 3/ provide input for the bimonthly SciOp report that the head of SciOp has to produce for the upper management (i.e. help me!).

In the future, the rythm and scope of these meetings will be adjusted depending of the usefulness of the first ones.



No major change with respect to the current system:


As maintenance will be mostly performed by "outsiders" (i.e. from Engineering Dpt and SWC), coordination will be of critical importance.

For each telescope, the Day TIO will be in charge of that coordination (and be TELESCOPE COORDINATOR). On a day-to-day basis, he will

One of the Telescope Coordinators (typically a "senior" one) will be SCIOP COORDINATOR, i.e. in addition to coordinate his telescope, he will also coordinate the actions that affect SciOp as a whole. He will be in charge of representing SciOp at the Action Point Meeting on Thu, and -if needed- invite additional SciOp members to be present at that meeting.