Cesar Briceno, Jay Elias (NOAO)
The Astronomical Event Observatory Network (AEON), a collaboration between Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO), NOAO, SOAR and Gemini, is aimed at building an ecosystem of world-class telescope facilities for the follow up of transients and time-domain astronomy, in preparation for the LSST era.
The night of 6 August 2019 set a milestone for the project, as the first of 20 nights scheduled on the SOAR telescope this semester in AEON-queue mode. The night was successful, with a total of 10 different targets studied under excellent observing conditions. Additional queue-scheduled observing nights are anticipated at a rate of 3-4 per month for the remainder of the 2019B semester.
Over this semester, SOAR’s AEON-scheduled queue will carry out observations that have been approved through the standard NOAO TAC process. The approved programs, eight regular programs and four Target-of-Opportunity programs, pursue diverse science cases, ranging from the characterization and study of Near Earth Objects, microlensing events, young supernovae, RR Lyrae stars in ultra-faint dwarf galaxies, solar-like pre-main sequence stars, to the follow up of Galactic transients and gravitational wave events.
AEON builds on the infrastructure of the existing network of small telescopes run by LCO to incorporate 4-m and 8-m class telescopes. The underlying idea is to create an integrated “follow-up” ecosystem, as outlined in the figure below.
The AEON concept. The red rectangle on the right highlights the portions currently under development and testing. SOAR is the pathfinder facility for bringing other telescopes into a highly automated system, running unsupervised software, that generates a dynamic and flexible schedule roughly every 15 minutes.
SOAR’s Goodman instrument is currently available through the AEON queue in a subset of modes: imaging with the VR, SDSS-g, SDSS-r, SDSS-i filters, and spectroscopy with the red camera, 400 line grating and 1 arcsecond slit. Users can submit their targets at any time during the semester, through the LCO Observing Portal or with custom software that connects to LCO via their API. On an AEON night, the observing schedule is downloaded from LCO and executed by software that runs both the telescope and the Goodman instrument; guide star and on-slit target acquisition (for spectroscopic observations) are the only steps still carried out manually. Users can obtain the status of their observations and retrieve their raw data through the LCO Observing Portal. Data reduction can be carried out in an automated way using the Goodman Spectroscopic Data Reduction Pipeline. Further information on observing with AEON is available at the LCO-AEON web site.
SOAR intends to expand the range of Goodman configurations available in queue mode and to eventually add additional instruments such as TripleSpec 4.1. The underlying objective is to provide flexible observing in an era of complex observing requirements ranging from large survey programs to focused time-domain programs.
To learn more: Interested SOAR-AEON users, including those affiliated with other SOAR partners, are invited to consult future issues of Currents and calls for the proposals for additional opportunities and information. Updates on available instruments or observing configurations for the 2020A semester will be provided when the NOAO call for proposals is issued in early September. We are also very much interested in including programs from other SOAR partners in the AEON queue. Developing the AEON Network will be a major topic of discussion at the upcoming TOM Toolkit Workshop. Further information on the current status and related matters at the SOAR AEON page.
SOAR’s success in reaching this milestone is due to the effort of a many people, including Diego Gomez and Omar Estay of NOAO and Jon Nation, Elizabeth Heinrich, and Mark Bowman of Las Cumbres Observatory. Queue operations also rely on the skill and efficiency of the regular SOAR operators. Funding for much of this work was provided by supplementary funding from the National Science Foundation.
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NOAO is the US national research & development center for ground-based night time astronomy. In particular, NOAO is enabling the development of the US optical-infrared (O/IR) System, an alliance of public and private observatories allied for excellence in scientific research, education and public outreach.
Our core mission is to provide public access to qualified professional researchers via peer-review to forefront scientific capabilities on telescopes operated by NOAO as well as other telescopes throughout the O/IR System. Today, these telescopes range in aperture size from 2-m to 10-m. NOAO is participating in the development of telescopes with aperture sizes of 20-m and larger as well as a unique 8-m telescope that will make a 10-year movie of the Southern sky.
In support of this mission, NOAO is engaged in programs to develop the next generation of telescopes, instruments, and software tools necessary to enable exploration and investigation through the observable Universe, from planets orbiting other stars to the most distant galaxies in the Universe.
To communicate the excitement of such world-class scientific research and technology development, NOAO has developed a nationally recognized Education and Public Outreach program. The main goals of the NOAO EPO program are to inspire young people to become explorers in science and research-based technology, and to reach out to groups and individuals who have been historically under-represented in the physics and astronomy science enterprise.
The National Optical Astronomy Observatory is proud to be a US National Node in the International Year of Astronomy, 2009.
About Our Observatories:
Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO)
Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) has its headquarters in Tucson and operates the Mayall 4-meter, the 3.5-meter WIYN , the 2.1-meter and Coudé Feed, and the 0.9-meter telescopes on Kitt Peak Mountain, about 55 miles southwest of the city.
The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) is located in northern Chile. CTIO operates the 4-meter, 1.5-meter, 0.9-meter, and Curtis Schmidt telescopes at this site.
The NOAO System Science Center (NSSC) at NOAO is the gateway for the U.S. astronomical community to the International Gemini Project: twin 8.1 meter telescopes in Hawaii and Chile that provide unprecedented coverage (northern and southern skies) and details of our universe.
NOAO is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy under a Cooperative Agreement with the National Science Foundation.