Support Astronomer Guidelines

The AAT Client Service Charter states under its "Instrumentation" category that....

  • For OPTICON and NOAO runs only, a support astronomer will get in touch with you at least four weeks before your observing run to confirm the details of your run.
  • We will provide the instrumentation at the start of the evening that will enable you to undertake your scientific program as specified.
  • For OPTICON and NOAO runs only, a support astronomer will be present for the first night to facilitate your obtaining the best possible data.
  • We will make available full documentation to guide you in carrying out your observations

Before the Run

 You must contact NOAO and OPTICON observers at least 4 weeks before each run, and point them to the relevant web pages of information for observers. You should also:

  • review the instrument set-up proposed, and encourage the observers to do likewise. Any deficiencies in, or changes to, the set-up must be forwarded to Site, usually via the Site Operations Manager, Doug Gray as soon as possible, and not less than 1 week before the run.
  • encourage the observers to arrive at the telescope the night before their run starts.
  • ensure that students will be accompanied by their supervisor, or a suitably-experienced colleague (postdoc-level or above). Suitably-experienced students may only observe on their own at the AAT with the prior written permission of the SSO Director.

Before the First Night

  • If supporting from site support astronomers (and scheduled observers) usually arrive at the telescope on the night before the first night on which they are supporting. They will therefore usually meet at dinner on this night, and can verify the observer's plans, discuss instrument setup and possibly begin introduction to the instrument.
  • If for any reason you can't be present on the night before, then you must be present at the AAT by no later than 1pm of the first night of observing, and you must inform the observer of this and arrange a time and place to meet on the day of the first night's observing, so you can verify the observer's plans, discuss instrument setup and begin introduction to, and setup of, the instrument.
  • During the day before the first night of an observer's run the AAT day staff will endeavour to set up the instrument as requested. Support astronomers will come to the control room by 1-2pm to assist in, or take over, this process from the day staff, along with the scheduled observer.
  • You must give all observers present a safety briefing on the AAT.
  • You must explain to observers where to find the name of the scheduled Afternoon Technician, that (if you are not available for any reason) the Afternoon Technician should be the observer's first contact for assistance, and how to contact the Afternoon Technician.
  • You must start the observers on any calibrations or test exposures required to ensure the instrument will be ready to start observing as soon as possible after sunset.

During the run

  • Support astronomer roles vary widely with instruments, their commissioning status, etc. You should ensure you are familiar with the degree of involvement you are expected to have for your instrument in advance of the run.


Instrument support is scheduled in one of four categories. How long you are at the telescope will depend on which category the proposal is scheduled in as indicated on the AAT schedule:

N - No astronomical support will be provided at the telescope, but you will provide support as required before, during, and after the run. You should provide contact details (e.g. mobile phone number) so that the scheduled observer can ask questions after they arrive at the telescope (especially as they are setting up the instrument). Using remote access software like VNC, it is possible to monitor the status of any instrument from Epping, and even interact with it yourself. See the Software group for help with this.

F - First night astronomical support will be provided at the telescope. You will make yourself available to provide an introduction to the AAT, the instrument, and the instrument's setup from 1pm in the afternoon of the first night. You will make yourself available at the telescope to help during the first scheduled night, until the observers are sufficiently confident with the instrumentation for you to depart. This is the observer's call, not your's, to make. In any case, you will generally not leave the AAT until after 1am on the first night of observing. Thereafter, make sure the observers know how to reach you (e.g. mobile phone number) at any time of the day or night if they have questions; in case of problems or faults, they should still contact the Afternoon Technician or Night Assistant in the first instance.

Y - Full support will be provided at the telescope on all nights of the run. You will be available to assist with introduction to the AAT, the instrument, and instrument setup, from 1pm in the afternoon of the first night. You will make yourself available at the AAT to help throughout the run, and ensure the observers know how to find you throughout the run.

A - Implies that an AAO staff member is a co-investigator on the proposal. In this case this AAO astronomer has full reponsibility for the provision of all required support at the AAT for this program. If not sufficiently experienced with the instrument themselves, they must make arrangements for training in advance of their run.

  • At all times when you are supporting at the AAT, you should keep the scheduled observers and AAT night assistant informed as to your whereabouts. If observers are happy for you to carry out your own work, or work elsewhere in the building, this is OK. Once again, however, this is the observer's call to make. You must ask them if working without you, or your working elsewhere, is acceptable.

  • Ensure observers fill out an Observer's Report Form before their run ends.
  • Observers are responsible for making their own data copies.
  • If the night was a Director's night, you should email the Director with a summary of the night's use.