All Keck science instruments have been used routinely for
"remote observing" from Keck Headquarters in Waimea since 1996.
WMKO supports observing from selected sites on the
U.S. mainland, as well as a site in Australia.
Modes of Operation
WMKO offers three modes of operation for mainland observing:
- Eavesdrop mode: At least one member of the
observing team (who is experienced in using the scheduled
instrument) observes from Waimea, while other members of the
team observe from the mainland. Control of the instrument is
shared between the two sites, with Waimea having primary
responsibility for operating the instrument. Requests to
eavesdrop should be made at least two weeks prior to the run.
- Mainland-only mode: The entire observing team
observes from one or more sites off-island, with remote
support provided by the Support Astronomer in Waimea as usual.
WMKO currently requires that at least one member of the
mainland team have recent experience with operating the
scheduled instrument, which we define as having used the
instrument on-sky at least one night in the last two years.
Such requests are due 4 weeks prior to the run.
- Video-only mode: A remote observer wishes to
participate using the Polycom videoconferencing unit at the
remote site, without having any instrument control windows
running remotely. Such requests are due 1 business day before
Requesting Use of Mainland Observing
Please note that as of October 2010, the procedure for
requesting use of mainland observing facilties has changed.
Observers (whether PI or co-I) should now submit requests
through their observing homepage at WMKO as follows:
Please note that all requests are contingent on:
- Log in. Access the WMKO
Observer Login Page. Enter your username and password to
- Access form. From your observer login page, you
can get to the online form to request mainland observing in
- For programs on which you are the P.I., your home
page displays upcoming observing runs. Click the
appropriate link to submit a mainland observing request
page for that particular run.
- If you're not the PI, or the run is not listed, then
use the link reading Click here to submit a mainland
- Submit form. Complete the mainland observing web
- Dates of the run and portion of the night
- Instrument and telescope to be used
- Allocating institution
- Mainland observing site(s) to be used
- Observing mode (eavesdrop, mainland-only, video-only)
- Names and emails of PI and requestor
- Whether or not you have used the instrument at least
one night in the last 2 years
- Whether or not you have used the remote site before
- For NASA time, whether or not you have been granted
permission to request mainland observing
Following submission of your request, WMKO will notify you
within 2 business days regarding the decision.
- availability of the mainland site
- approval from the mainland site
- approval of your WMKO Support Astronomer
- Interferometer restrictions apply. Only a limited
form of mainland observing is currently possible with the Keck
Interferometer. Please contact us for further details on
using the Keck Interferometer from the mainland.
- Sites are limited. Eavesdrop-mode observing is
currently supported at all locations. Mainland-only mode
operation is possible only from certain
sites which have Internet backup equipment installed.
- Support is limited. WMKO Support Astronomers will
be available as usual at Waimea HQ for consultation during the
hours they would normally be available if the observer were
here. Instrument and session setup occurs during the normal
setup time (2:00pm to 5:00pm HST).
- Experience is required. Because interaction
between the observers and their Support Astronomer will be
limited to the videoconferencing connection, at least one
experienced observer must be present and supervising
operations at the mainland site when operating in the
mainland-only observing mode.
- Consent is required. Requests for use of the
mainland observing facilities will be granted only upon
unanimous consent of the observers, support personnel at the
local site, WMKO, and NASA (for Keck observing time granted
through NASA). Each request for mainland observing will be
considered on a case-by-case basis.
- Observer assumes risk! If you use the
mainland-only option, you bear the risk of losing observing
time if the Internet fails (although fallback communication
systems are provided at certain sites, they are considerably
slower than the Internet).
Remote observers are responsible for scheduling a time with your
local site manager to perform checkout of the video and VNC
sessions prior to the run as described in this
checklist. Please consult the telescope
schedule to determine which observing account you have been
assigned, which determines which VNC servers you should connect
with. Observers should complete this checkout procedure at
least one business day (but not more than 5 calendar days)
before the run to ensure that both are operating correctly, and
should contact their support astronomer if any problems occur.
Although Internet outages are now less frequent than in the
past, they can still occur without warning and may affect your
run. As mentioned above, observers accept the potential risk of
lost observing time when agreeing to make use of remote sites.
In an outage, your options depend on your operating mode:
If the Internet connection fails, you may ask the OA to contact
Keck software personnel to determine whether or not the fault
lies within the Keck network. If the Keck network is the
problem, then we will do our best to fix it. If the problem
lies within your network, you will need to contact your local
site manager to diagnose the problem. If the problem lies
outside the local networks, then we may not be able to assist.
- Eavesdrop mode. The observers in Waimea will be
responsible for operating the instrument until an Internet
connection is re-established.
- Mainland-only mode. As long as phone service
remains functional, the ISDN backup lines at your mainland
site should activate and restore partial connectivity within a
couple of minutes. Although the ISDN interface will not be
nearly as responsive as the Internet, it should still be
NOTE: It is not appropriate to ask the your
Observing Assistant or Support Astronomer to operate the
instrument for you in case the Internet fails. By using
the mainland site, you accept the risk that you may lose
observing time to Internet outages.
For additional information about mainland observing with Keck,
please contact the