WMKO supports observing from selected sites in the U.S. and Australia.

Modes of Operation

WMKO offers three modes of operation for mainland observing:

Eavesdrop mode: Observers both at Keck HQ and the mainland site. Instrument control is shared. Eavesdrop requests are due 2 weeks before the run.

Mainland Only mode: No observers at Keck HQ. At least one member of the mainland team must have used the scheduled instrument in the last two years. Mainland requests are due 4 weeks before the run.

Video Only mode: Videoconferencing access at a remote site, with no instrument control. Video requests are due 1 business day before the run.

Requesting Use of Mainland Observing Facilities

  • Log in to the WMKO Observer Login Page.
  • From your observer login page, you can access the online form to request mainland observing in two ways:
    • 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 observing request".
  • Submit form. Complete the mainland observing web form, indicating:
    • 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
  • Please note that all requests are contingent on:
    • availability of the mainland site
    • approval from the mainland site
    • approval of your WMKO Support Astronomer
    • Following submission of your request, WMKO will notify you within 2 business days regarding the decision.


  • 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).

Pre-run Checkout

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.

Internet Outages

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:

  • 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 usable.

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.

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.

Further information

For additional information about mainland observing with Keck, please contact the Mainland Observing Coordinators.