La Silla Observatory



Re-Engineering Project:

Structure and Operation


Prepared Olivier Hainaut 2002-02-10
Reviewed Michael Sterzik 2002-05-13
Released Jorge Melnick 2002-05-30

Revision History

0.1 2002-02-10 first draft, ohainaut
0.9 2002-02-22 Major revision after general meeting
0.91 2002-03-20 Typos and html fixes. No text change
0.92 2002-05-13 Comments by RME, PLE, EBA, MST incorporated, stylistic changes, and comments (msterzik)
2002-05-19 REVIEW VERSION: Additional comments from RME and JME incorporated. Broadcasted review version - ohainaut
2002-05-29 modif. from comments from 2d round included. All the dicussions stripped out.
1.1 2002-06-14 fixed Table of Content, added final summary table
1.2 2004-04-28 oh: minor change in the def of who can support an instrument




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.

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. Presence 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, Ivo Saviane, and in Vitacura, Gaspare Lo Curto, Kate Brooks and Leonardo Vanzi.  Version 0.91 was released to the LaSilla audience for discussion and comments, which were edited and included by M.Sterzik and O.Hainaut (contributions were reveived from P.LeSaux, R.Mendez, and M. Sterzik. E. Barrios and J. Melnick). The comments and replys are included in the review version of this document (v.0.93),  which was released for a second round of comments, leading to v.1.00.


It will be clear to the gentle 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 operate the observatory  telescopes, not the astronomers. Indeed, TIOs tend to have a longer life time in the organization (time scale of 10 yrs) than the astronomers (time scale of 2 yrs), 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 responsibilities 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 gender.


[1] LSO-PLA-ESO-90000-4 SciOp Re-engineering: SciOp communications
[2] LSO-PLA-ESO-90000-5 SciOp Re-engineering: Administrative and Managerial internal structure


ETC: Exposure Time Calculator
LED: La Silla Engineering Department
SM: Service Mode
SMA: Service Mode Astronomer
SWC: La Silla Software and Communication Team
TIO: Telescope and Instrument Operator
VA: Visiting Astronomer
SciOp: La Silla Science Operation Department



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

p>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.

In more details, the scope of SciOp is:

  • Preventive maintenance of instruments, telescope and auxiliary equipment
  • Calibration Plan
  • Telescope and Instruments Statistical Process Control (Performance)
  • Help desk for VAs (for pre- and post- observing run questions).
  • Assistance to P1PP/P2PP and during observations.
  • Environment Monitoring (Weather safety)
  • Reporting
  • Telescopes & Instruments Configuration control (Optic, Mechanic, Software, Electronic, infrastructure...)
  • Provide full year coverage for all the above.
  • 2.2- CLIENTS

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

    More specifically, these includes:

    2.3- PROCESSES

    From 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). The expertize to perform first level of troubleshooting and basic preventive maintenance should be maintained within SciOp. In that framework, each task will either be performed internally (according to internal SciOp procedure), or externally (e.g. 3.6m top ring change will be handled by LED). In case it is performed by an external provider, SciOp will accept (or not) the job done. The main disadvantage of this scheme is that most of the maintenance work will be "outsourced" to LED; to work properly, it will require a very good coordination. This makes the role of the Telescope Coordinator crutial.



    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 CORE that concentrates all the operation-related expertise on the instrument: if there is some info or knowledge related to the operation of an instrument, the Core should have it. Obviously, some of the specialized experience will stay with the corresponding expert (e.g. optical layout, cryogenics, electronics...).

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

    It is  important to note that the SciOp Operation Engineers will be deeply involved in most of these points. Also note that it is not expected that the instrument scientist will perform all the support on his instrument.


    The instrument scientist will be assisted by a TIO, who will be have expert knowledge 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.

    To reach the level of full "Instrument TIO", it is likely that some additional training will be required by the operation engineer, electronics, optics, and/or whoever needed.

    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 possible.


    In a similar way, each telescope (NTT, 3.6, 2.2) will have a Telescope Scientist and Telescope TIO, forming a Telescope Core. The Telescope Core has the same role for the telescope and related systems as the Instrument Core for the instruments. For instance, pointing model, mirror model, active optics, followup of action points and problems related to domes, hydraulics, etc... are under the Telescope Scientist/TIO Core' responsibility.


    The various Instrument Nuclei are 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 of the same instrument force. This should foster communication between the current teams. One Core 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).

    In addition to the Instrument Scientists of the instruments constituting it, the Force will also include additional scientists, i.e. "new" astronomers who are not yet Instrument Scientists, and "senior" scientists (this includes Fellows who completed their first year) who fully master all the instruments from one Force and are expanding to other Forces. In that framework, the support of a given instrument will be provided by the astronomers of its Force, not only by the Instrument Scientists. In practice, any SciOp astronomer from any IFo, who is certified on a given instrument, could give support on that instrument if/when needed.The average nr of nights during which each instrument is scheduled must be taken into account when constituting the forces and, to a certain extend, when hiring replacement for leaving scientists.

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

    Each of these meeting should be summarize briefly in a "monthly instrument force report", which will 1/ diffuse the info to SciOp as a whole, 2/ document and archive the problems, achievement, 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 rhythm and scope of these meetings will be adjusted depending of the usefulness of the first ones.

    It must be noted that the Instrument Core and Instrument Force structure is a technical structure, which obviously overlaps with the administrative structure (described in [2]) since the same people are involved. It is not a problem, since these structures have well defined scopes that are not overlaping.


    As their title suggests, the Operation Engineers are in charge of all the engineering aspects of the operation.  As such, they will have a crutial role within the Instrument Nuclei and Instrument forces, but also at a broader level.

    Their responsibilities include:



    No major change with respect to the current system:

    After Dec.2003 (when SciOp will have lost the current 2p2/WFI staff), this scheme will have to be condensed, sharing TIOs and/or Support Astronomers among telescopes, e.g. no night TIO for the 2p2 when in FEROS mode, or no astronomer in WFI/Service Mode. Priorities will have to be defined in case a person has to attend 2 telescopes at the same time, eg. Visitor Mode has priority over service, and/or larger diameter over smaller one.



    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). His role is equivalent to that of the Paranal's UT Manager. 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. He is also the person who mans the account (cf [1])


    Durning the day (starting at a decent time considering the time he went to bed the night before), the Support Astronomer will

    4.2.3- SHIFT LEADER

    One of the support astronomer (most senior) is the Astronomer Shift Leader (which corresponds very closely to the former La Silla Coordinator). He is in charge of taking astronomy-related decision, as to schedule ToO requests (checking that they are approved/pre-approved), approve ToO Requests in case of emergency (eg WE if Director not available), etc. He is also in charge of formally "closing" ToO tickets in the Remedy system (cf [1]). The Shift Leader can also enforce the authority of the TIOs for weather and safety related matters (e.g. in case of recalcitrant Visitor).

    It is suggested that the task of closing the Library curtains during the WE be passed to SWC, as they will become the most numerous users of the Admin building.


    The third TIO will either

    It should be noted that if the 3rd TIO is needed for on-line work, this has priority on any background task. For instance, if he is needed for urgent trouble shooting, problem solving, or to ensure the day/night transition, he should stop his background activities.


    They participate to maintenance plan, and on-line operation. Most of their time should be devoted to configuration control and operation developments, as described above



    The table below summarizes the operation and background tasks of the various members of SciOp

    Operation Engineers
    Day TIO
    Night TIO
    Background TIO
    OpAs Fellow)
    Head of Department

    Deputy to Head of SciOp 

    Operation Management

    Configuration Control

    Operational Tools Development (OPS)

    OTM/MTM templates maintenance

    Projects and Commissioning

    Maintenance Plan Control

    Technical Document WebMaster


    Day Coverage

    Night Technical Support

    Day-to-Day Telescope Coordination and Configuration Control

    Weekly Report

    Instruments Setups

    Detector refilling


    Instruments Calibrations

    Performance Monitoring


    Daily Startup

    Overlap Night Operation

    Telescopes and Instruments Night operation and Safety

    Night Report Submitting

    Carryout Service Observing

    Make Users Happy

    Be the SciOp Face projection


    Assist Instruments Scientist

    Perform Instrument Calibrations regarding the data Quality Control and Calibration Plan needs

    Installation and Setup Procedure definitions and Check List maintenance

    Instrument technical web page maintenance

    Commissioning of new features

    Instrument Metric and Configuration Control

    Science Support Deputy

    Supporting visiting/service astronomers

    Service Observations (SM, ToO, DDT, etc.)

    Tel&Inst performance monitoring

    Instrument Scientist

    Create and maintain User's Manuals

    Develop Pipelines and Data quality controls

    Train Instrument TIO


    Management and administrative tasks, described in LSO-SPE-ESO-00100-0004