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Jul 25 12:58:35 UTC
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Scheduled Maintenance Posted on Jun 6, 2014 by Josh Haislip
The Skynet website will be taken offline 2014-06-06 at 10:00AM EST for maintenance and upgrades. The duration of the outage should be around two hours. We apologize for the short notice and will do our best to have things back online as quickly as possible.
Scheduled Maintenance Posted on Apr 22, 2014 by Josh Haislip
The Skynet website will be taken offline 2014-04-25 at 2:00PM EST for maintenance and upgrades. The duration of the outage should be around one hour. We apologize for the short notice and will do our best to have things back online as quickly as possible.
Scheduled Maintenance Posted on Jan 21, 2014 by Josh Haislip
The Skynet website will be taken offline 2014-01-21 at 6:00PM EST for maintenance and upgrades. The duration of the outage is unknown at this time. If you have extremely important observations scheduled during this time, please notify a Skynet administrator as soon as possible. We apologize for the short notice and will do our best to have things back online as quickly as possible.
PROMPT-SSO Open! Posted on Dec 30, 2013 by Justin Moore

PROMPT-SSO is fully operational now. Be sure to submit your jobs there too! We have 17 filters on each scope and they're all ready to go. PROMPT-SSO-1 through PROMPT-SSO-3 are online every night the weather is clear, and PROMPT-SSO-4 will be online very soon!

Justin
Introductory Astronomy Lab Submissions Posted on Sep 20, 2013 by Justin Moore
It's that time of year again where our ever-expanding number of introductory astronomy lab students submit all of their images. During the next few nights we're going to push their jobs to the front of the queue so they are sure to have their data for analysis.
We apologize for any inconvenience - let us know if there are any issues.
PROMPT SSO Posted on Aug 12, 2013 by Cluze
The four new telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia have now been added to Skynet. We are still doing testing and adjustments, so you may see them go offline sporadically until all the kinks are worked out. Please feel free to use them during this initial period, but be aware that they are not yet 100% "online."

One note; the initial setup had an "Open" filter on PROMPT-SSO-3 and PROMPT-SSO-4. This was incorrect, so if you had submitted any jobs in those filters, they will be canceled by Skynet staff. Please use the Lum, Clear, or ExoPlanet filters for any imaging that requires broad (mostly) unfiltered observations.
GRB Testing 2013-01-13 to 2013-01-14 Posted on Jan 13, 2013 by Josh Haislip
On 2013-01-14 from 0100UTC to 0300UTC we will be adding simulated GRBs into the Skynet system in order to test telescope response times and behaviors. If you have very import observations scheduled on a Prompt telescope during this time period, please contact me as soon as possible.
Upcoming Prompt maintenance Posted on Nov 4, 2012 by Joshua Haislip
Our next maintenance trip to Prompt is scheduled from November 6th through the 19th. You may notice certain Prompt telescopes going offline during this time. If you need a particular telescope to be online on a particular night, please contact me as soon as possible and we will do our best to accommodate any special requests.
Upcoming Prompt maintenance Posted on Jul 29, 2012 by Kevin Ivarsen
Our next maintenance trip to Prompt is scheduled from August 5th thru the 19th. We will be making several major changes to the equipment and infrastructure at Prompt, and expect that we will need to take each telescope offline for multiple nights. If you need a particular telescope to be online on a particular night, please contact us as soon as possible and we will do our best to accommodate any special requests.
Status of Prompt3 and Prompt5 Posted on May 18, 2012 by Kevin Ivarsen

As many of you have noticed, the shutter on Prompt3's camera is not functioning reliably. Specifically, the shutter often does not close all the way, producing a light leak in the center of the image that ruins many of our automated darks and flats. The shutter also does not open all the way in some images, creating a shadow around the border of many nighttime images. We are working to get a replacement unit sent down to Prompt3. In the meantime, please use care when selecting darks and flats to apply to Prompt3 images. It is also best to avoid observing bright objects, such as planets, while Prompt3's shutter is malfunctioning.

In addition, we have had some intermittent network problems with Prompt5, particularly during periods of moderate to high humidity. Until we solve this problem, we are setting a very conservative 40% humidity limit on Prompt5 so that we can be assured that the dome will be safely closed before any network outages prevent us from connecting to the control computer.

Prompt 2 schedule Posted on May 7, 2012 by Kevin Ivarsen
The next dark cycle for Prompt2 will begin on May 11th, and finish on May 25th. Prompt2 will be unavailable through Skynet during this time.
All Prompt telescopes back online Posted on May 1, 2012 by Kevin Ivarsen

The network issues in Prompt1 and Prompt5 have been resolved, and the dark cycle for Prompt2 has come to an end. All Prompt telescopes are now back online.

The next dark cycle for Prompt2 begins around May 12th.

PROMPT availability updates Posted on Apr 29, 2012 by Kevin Ivarsen

After an extended period of poor weather at CTIO, we are finally seeing clear skies and relatively calm winds again. PROMPT should be open tonight.

Unfortunately, we lost network connectivity to the Prompt1 and Prompt5 routers over the weekend. We will have a technician look at these issues this week and will try to have the telescopes back online as soon as possible.

Finally, the dark cycle for Prompt2 is coming to an end, and the telescope should be back under Skynet control tomorrow (April 30th).

GRB Followup Posted on Apr 24, 2012 by Cluze
P1, P3, P4, and P5 will be doing follow up jobs on a GRB at high priority for approximately one hour, every night, just after twilight for the next ~30 days. During that time, other jobs will be unable to go through the system on those telescopes. If this will cause any problems with any other ongoing projects, please contact us.
Prompt5 maintenance - April 19th Posted on Apr 19, 2012 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 5 will be offline for maintenance tonight starting at 4/19 10:30pm EDT (4/20 02:30 UTC). We expect the telescope to be back online around 4/20 3:00am EDT (4/20 07:00 UTC) and apologize for any inconvenience this outage may cause.
Maintenance trip report; Upcoming P2 schedule Posted on Apr 11, 2012 by Kevin Ivarsen

We are pleased to report that the maintenance trip completed at the end of March was a success. Much of the trip involved behind-the-scenes changes to keep the telescopes operating smoothly, such as upgrading the telescope control computers and installing a new cloud sensor for improved weather protection. In addition, we replaced the malfunctioning filter wheel on Prompt1 with a temporary 4-position wheel, consisting of Open, Lum, V, and R filters. Observers who have noted the IR fringing effects on our cameras may be particularly interested in the Lum filter, which blocks IR light and tends to yield a smoother background in the CCD image.

In other news, this month's lunar dark cycle for Prompt2 begins April 14th and ends April 29th. Prompt2 will be performing specialized observations during this period and will be unavailable through Skynet for most of this period.

Prompt2 offline for March dark cycle; Upcoming Prompt maintenance trip Posted on Mar 14, 2012 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt2 will be offline from March 14th thru March 30th for private use during this month's lunar dark cycle. In addition, we are planning a maintenance trip to Prompt from March 20th until March 28th. We will try to keep as many telescopes online as much as possible, but it may be necessary to take one or two telescopes offline on particular nights for maintenance and testing. If you have any time-critical observations coming up that require a particular telescope to be online, please contact us: skynetweb [at] physics.unc.edu
Dolomiti telescope back online Posted on Mar 9, 2012 by Kevin Ivarsen
The Dolomiti telescope is back on Skynet, following the repair of a broken filter wheel.
Prompt2 back online Posted on Mar 2, 2012 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt2 is back under Skynet control following the specialty observations performed during this month's lunar dark cycle. It will be online until around March 14th, the start of the next dark cycle.
Prompt 2 dark time Posted on Dec 12, 2011 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 2 will be offline for specialized use during this month's lunar dark cycle from Dec 17th thru Dec 31st.
New Skynet images delayed Posted on Dec 1, 2011 by Kevin Ivarsen

Tonight we will be transitioning to a new RAID for image data storage. As we prepare for this transition, we have temporarily halted the transfer of new images back from Skynet telescopes. This means that, while images taken before tonight will continue to be accessible, new images will not be available on the website until tomorrow morning. We will post an update once new images are being transferred once again.

UPDATE:The transition to our new storage server is complete, and telescope image transfer has been resumed. All recent images from Prompt should be available within a few hours.

Skynet data server back online Posted on Nov 30, 2011 by Kevin Ivarsen

The Skynet data/image server is now back online. Images should be available through the website again. We are working through the backlog of images taken over the past 1-2 days that need to be transferred from Skynet telescopes to our server at UNC. We should be back up to date within about 12 hours for most telescopes.

Over the next few days there may be a few more brief outages as we finish transitioning to a new data server that should be more reliable. We will do our best to keep these outages to a minimum.

Skynet data server offline Posted on Nov 28, 2011 by Kevin Ivarsen
The Skynet data server unexpectedly dropped offline earlier today. We are investigating the problem right now and hope that this situation will be resolved by tomorrow. During this time, images will be unavailable through FTP or the Skynet website. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Prompt 2 dark cycle Posted on Nov 18, 2011 by Kevin Ivarsen
As a reminder, the lunar dark cycle for Prompt 2 begins tomorrow night, November 18th, and will end on December 3rd. Prompt 2 will be offline during this time for specialized observations.
ARO-30 images Posted on Nov 9, 2011 by Kevin Ivarsen
Due to a recent network change at ARO-30, images from that telescope have not been getting transferred back to Skynet properly. We have a temporary solution in place, and we are now working through the backlog of images that need to be transferred; however, it may be a few days before all recent ARO-30 images are available on the Skynet website. We apologize for the inconvenience.
PROMPT status update Posted on Nov 7, 2011 by Kevin Ivarsen

We wanted to provide an update on the current status of the PROMPT telescopes:

Prompt1: The filter wheel electronics recently failed. We have left the wheel in the Open position, so for now this is the only filter that can be used on Prompt1. We are investigating repair or replacement options.

Prompt2: After a long hiatus during which we were testing specialized equipment on Prompt2, the telescope is back under Skynet control. Thanks to the improved tracking performance of the new mount in Prompt2, we have extended the maximum exposure length of this telescope to 300 seconds. As before, the telescope will be online during lunar bright time and offline for lunar dark time. The next dark cycle begins November 18th, and the telescope will come back online December 3rd.

Prompt3: The camera shutter occasionally does not close entirely, resulting in vertical streaking of bright objects near the center of the frame during camera readout. If you plan to observe targets with bright sources near the center of the frame, it might be best to select another telescope. We are investigating repair options.

Prompt4 and Prompt5: Both telescopes have been operating normally.

In addition, the mirrors on all of the telescopes were recently cleaned.

Prompt 2 and Prompt 5 Posted on Jul 1, 2011 by Kevin Ivarsen

As many of you have seen, Prompt 2 recently came back online. We have installed a new mount, the Planewave A200HR, and after spending some time testing the equipment and developing new software, Prompt 2 is back under Skynet control. As before, P2 will be offline for private use during lunar dark time (roughly 14 days each month from 3rd quarter to 1st quarter moon), and will typically be online the rest of the time. We are currently in a dark cycle, and P2 will come back online around July 9th.

In other news, Prompt 5 has suffered an extended outage due to a computer failure. We are working to resolve the problem, and will post an update when P5 is online again.

Watch the construction of Prompt 7 Posted on Mar 31, 2011 by Kevin Ivarsen
The seventh PROMPT telescope is under construction in Chile! You can watch the progress in real time via Promptcam. Prompt 7 will be a 32" telescope with optical and infrared imaging capabilities. Stay tuned for more updates!
Planned downtime on Sunday, Feb 13 Posted on Jan 28, 2011 by Kevin Ivarsen

Skynet will be offline on Sunday, Feb. 13th, from approximately 7:00AM until 11:00AM EST. The building where our servers are hosted will be without power during this time for facility maintenance. We will strive to have Skynet back online as quickly as possible once power returns. We apologize for the inconvenience.

UPDATE: The date of the outage is Feb. 13th, not Jan. 30th as originally posted.

Image retrieval unavailable Posted on Dec 1, 2010 by Kevin Ivarsen

Due to a network event on campus today, our image server is currently offline. We are working to restore service as quickly as possible.

UPDATE: Image access has been restored as of 6:00PM EST. We appreciate your patience during this outage.

Maintenance trip complete Posted on Nov 12, 2010 by Kevin Ivarsen
Our annual Prompt maintenance trip has come to an end. Prompt 3, 4, and 5 should be online with more regularity. Prompt 1 and 2 should be coming back online in the next few days.
Upcoming maintenance; Prompt 5 offline Posted on Oct 27, 2010 by Kevin Ivarsen

Our annual maintenance trip to the Prompt telescopes will be from Oct. 27th through November 10th. During this time, some of the Prompt telescopes may be temporarily offline while we perform nighttime tests. We will try to keep at least a couple of telescopes observing each night. If you have time-critical observing needs that require a particular set of telescopes to be online on particular nights, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate you.

Prompt 2 will most likely be offline starting tonight and extending through the end of the lunar dark cycle on November 13th.

The filter wheel on Prompt 5 malfunctioned two night ago, and the telescope was taken offline. We will attempt to repair the wheel and have the telescope back online as quickly as possible.

Prompt status tonight Posted on Jul 3, 2010 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt will be offline for the first part of this evening to carry out a specialized observation. The telescopes will return to Skynet control around 01:30UT, or roughly 2 hours after sunset at CTIO.
Data access returns; Prompt 2 online Posted on Jun 22, 2010 by Kevin Ivarsen
We have moved our data storage to a new machine that should work much more reliably. All data should be available now, and we have resumed transferring new images from the telescopes. In addition, Prompt 2 is back online tonight. It will remain online until the start of the next dark cycle, around July 3rd.
Data access redux Posted on Jun 21, 2010 by Cluze
We are once again experiencing some weirdness with the RAID.  We are working to correct the problem in the short term, and we are in the process of replacing the RAID in the long term. 

Data may be temporarily unavailable as while we work on this, but we will try to have everything back on-line as soon as possible.
Data access temporarily unavailable Posted on May 20, 2010 by Kevin Ivarsen

Our RAID data storage unit was exhibiting some problems late this afternoon. We have taken it offline to run some diagnostics and repairs. During this time, FITS/JPEG image retrieval will be unavailable; however, Skynet telescopes should continue to observe.

We hope to have our data server back online within eight hours.

Update: Data access was returned to service within the estimated eight hour timeframe. The RAID appears to be functioning normally once again.

Weather in Chile has cleared; Prompt 2 to return Posted on May 17, 2010 by Kevin Ivarsen

The bad weather in Chile seems to have passed. We have powered up and tested all of the equipment, and expect to resume observations at PROMPT tonight.

In addition, Prompt 2 should come back online on May 22nd, after the end of this month's lunar dark time. The mount on Prompt 2 has not been working reliably, so this telescope was being used in manual-only mode for the past few cycles, even during bright time. We were recently able to replace the home sensors and control board, and the telescope now appears to be working properly.

Bad weather in Chile Posted on May 16, 2010 by Kevin Ivarsen
The PROMPT site has been experiencing an unusually long stretch of rain and fog over the past several days. As a precaution, all equipment was powered off before the start of the bad weather. As soon as the weather clears, we will have the telescopes back online.
Earthquake in Chile Posted on Feb 27, 2010 by Kevin Ivarsen

This morning at 6:34 GMT a magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile. The epicenter was located approximately 410 miles southwest of the PROMPT telescope site. Based on early tests, we do not believe the telescopes suffered any damage. Depending on the reliability of the Internet connection to CTIO, we will try to run further tests once it is dark in Chile, and expect to have most of the telescopes back online tonight.

Sadly, this earthquake has caused a great deal of destruction and loss of life. Our thoughts go out to all those whose lives have been affected by this tragedy.

Prompt 5 pointing error; Prompt 2 to return Posted on Jan 21, 2010 by Kevin Ivarsen

Prompt 5 had a large pointing error in Right Ascension last night and part of tonight that resulted in most targets being off the image frame. The problem has been correct and the telescope is now pointing properly again.

The replacement parts for Prompt 2 arrived and have been installed. The telescope is scheduled to come back online on January 25th, after the end of this month's lunar dark time.

Security certificate expiration; Prompt 2 filter wheel outage Posted on Dec 29, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
The SSL certificate we use to encrypt communication with our website expired today (Dec 29). Two weeks ago we began the process of getting an updated certificate, but we have not yet received it. If you see warnings about invalid or expired security certificates while visiting our website over the next few days, do not be alarmed - we will try to have the new certificates in place very soon.

The electronics in the filter wheel used on Prompt 2 failed recently. Replacement parts have been ordered and are being shipped down to Chile. We will try to have the wheel operational again as soon as possible, but Prompt 2 will be offline in the meantime.
Upcoming Prompt availability; Prompt 1 pointing Posted on Dec 14, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen

We are running a special high-priority observing program that will use all five active Prompt telescopes for the last half of the night on December 15th. If there is bad weather on the 15th, this program may be run on the 16th instead. If you are planning an upcoming all-night observing run, please be aware of this potential conflict.

---

Over the past week on Prompt 1 we have been seeing occasional pointing errors of as much as 6 arcminutes in declination. We have not yet been able to find a reliable fix, but we are working to correct the problem. If you are submitting critical observations on Prompt 1, we encourage you to check the telescope pointing as your images come back until we can implement a long-term solution.

Prompt 2 lunar dark time Posted on Dec 8, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 2 will be offline from December 8th through the 23rd for specialized use during lunar dark time.
Prompt 1 returned to service Posted on Nov 30, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
The filter wheel on Prompt 1 was repaired on Nov 25, and appears to be working normally. Feel free to resume using Prompt 1 for regular observations.
Prompt 1 filter problem; End of Prompt 2 dark cycle Posted on Nov 25, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
As many of you have seen, we brought Prompt 1 back online as a general-purpose optical telescope during our most recent trip to Chile. We may occasionally take the system offline for development and testing, but in general feel free to begin using the telescope as another available Prompt system.

Unfortunately, the filter wheel on Prompt 1 became stuck in an intermediate position on Nov. 23 at 6:03 UT. Any observations taken after this time clearly showed only the bottom half of the frame as being illuminated. We hope to have the filter wheel repaired within a week. Prompt 1 will be down during this time.

Finally, Prompt 2 has gone back to the scheme of being offline during lunar dark time (the two weeks from third quarter, through new moon, to first quarter). Prompt 2 will be back under Skynet control tomorrow night, November 25th. The next dark cycle begins on Monday, Dec 7th.
Prompt maintenance trip Posted on Oct 14, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
We will be visiting Prompt for our annual maintenance trip from Oct 15 through Oct 25. During this time we may take telescopes offline temporarily while we perform tests and maintenance tasks.

Prompt 2 will likely be offline for most of the trip. We will try not to take more than one additional scope offline at any given time. We will try to post updates at least a day in advance if we know that a scope will be offline, but given our limited timeframe and the unpredictable nature of this work we may not always be able to give advance notice.

Please let us know if you have a time-critical observation that requires a particular telescope to be online on a given night.
Ghosting issues Posted on Sep 28, 2009 by Cluze
Some of you may have noticed that we have experienced some ghosting issues in the past.  This problem occurs when a very bright object is observed and a residual "ghost" image appears in subsequent observations.  This ghost image fades with time and after about 20 minutes effectively disappears.  While this is normally not much of an issue, we have students here at UNC using the PROMPT telescopes for observations of Jupiter for the next two weeks for a lab course.  As such, we expect that this may impact some of you.

Please have a careful look at your images taken over the next two weeks.  If there is significant ghosting that impacts your images, please re-submit your observations.  We appreciate your patience while this lab course is going on.
Prompt 4 shutter replaced Posted on Aug 26, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
The camera shutter on Prompt 4 was replaced yesterday morning, and the system now seems to be working much better.

If you see any images that appear to indicate a shutter problem, please contact [skynetweb (at) physics.unc.edu]
Prompt 4 shutter problem; Prompt 2 online this month Posted on Aug 6, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
The shutter on Prompt 4's camera is occasionally failing to close completely. This problem began approximately 10 days ago, and is similar to the issue we had on Prompt 3 in late June.  When the shutter fails to close entirely before or after an exposure, vertical streaks can be seen extending above or below bright stars, as illustrated in this image.  We are working to fix the problem, although there may be a delay because our normal on-site technician is currently on vacation.

Also, Prompt 2 will remain online throughout lunar dark time this month. Normal Skynet observations should continue to go through the system on that telescope.
Prompt 2 offline for lunar dark time Posted on Jul 14, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 2 will be offline starting tonight for specialized use during lunar dark time. The telescope will return to Skynet control on July 30th.
Prompt 4 filter wheel problem Posted on Jul 9, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
Sometime last night (July 8th), a set screw came loose inside Prompt 4's filter wheel. As a result, the wheel was stuck on an unknown filter for part of the night. Color-dependent observations from Prompt 4 should not be trusted.

We hope to have the wheel repaired today and back online tonight.

Update - July 10, 2009

The filter wheel was repaired in time for last night's (July 9th) observations. We will keep an eye on it for the next few days to make sure it continues to operate correctly.
Prompt 3 shutter problem Posted on Jun 24, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
A problem has developed with the camera on Prompt 3. We have found that the shutter is partially open before and after some exposures. This causes vertical streaks to extend from bright stars near the center of the image.  See this image for an example of the problem.

We will ship a replacement camera to Prompt, but in the meantime we will leave Prompt 3 operating as-is. Please be aware of this problem if your project could be affected by it.
Prompt 2 online with new filter wheel Posted on Jun 2, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 2 is now back online after the most recent lunar dark cycle. The next dark cycle begins on June 15.

We have completed installation of a new, larger filter wheel to match the larger camera that was installed a few months ago. The severe mechanical vignetting effect should no longer be an issue, and the wider 21' x 14' field of view will offer Prompt users an interesting alternative to the usual 10' x 10' view offered by our telescopes.

Also note that the science filters on Prompt 2 have changed, as this new camera has poor response in the blue wavelengths, especially in the UV. The U, uprime, B, and gprime filters have been replaced with V, R, and rprime. If your observations require UV or B exposures, please use Prompt 3 with its UV-optimized camera.
Prompt 2 offline for lunar dark cycle Posted on May 18, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 2 is now offline for use during the May lunar dark cycle. The telescope will be back online around June 1st.
Upcoming Prompt usage Posted on Apr 2, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
The lunar dark cycle ends tonight, and Prompt 2 will return to Skynet control beginning tomorrow (April 3rd).

However, for three upcoming nights (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), all of the Prompt telescopes will be dedicated to performing observations for a UNC graduate thesis project. Except for a small gap of time while the object is transiting, the telescopes will be unavailable for other observations.

Finally, folks familiar with the first computer bug may appreciate a bug that we found in one of the Prompt images a few nights ago. The insect landed on the camera window for two exposures, and then flew away.
Prompt 2 offline Posted on Mar 17, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 2 will be offline starting tomorrow night, 3/18/2009, for private use during lunar dark time. The telescope will return to Skynet on 4/3/2009.
New camera on Prompt 2 Posted on Mar 5, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
We have reached the end of the lunar dark cycle, and Prompt 2 will return to Skynet control tonight.

We have installed a new Apogee U9 camera on Prompt 2. The camera is significantly different from the U47 cameras on the other Prompt telescopes:
  • Array size: 3072 x 2048 pixels (vs 1024 x 1024)
  • Pixel size: 9 microns (vs 13)
  • Image scale: 0.41 arcsec per pixel (vs 0.59)
  • Field of view: 21 x 14 arcminutes (vs 10 arcminutes)
  • Peak QE: 65% (vs 90%)
  • Full specs available from Apogee's website
This camera will allow Prompt users to image wider fields from CTIO. Scientifically, it will help us localize gamma ray bursts detected by the new Fermi satellite.

Unfortunately, our current filter wheel is too small for the new CCD, and only the central 16 arcminute region of the image is usable. A larger filter wheel has been purchased, and will be installed as soon as it arrives at CTIO.

For a comparison of the two cameras, here are images of the Tarantula nebula taken by the old U47 camera, and the new U9 camera.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the new camera, please contact us: skynetweb [at] physics.unc.edu
Prompt update Posted on Feb 26, 2009 by Kevin
Last night we were able to return Prompt 4 to service. We expect to have Prompt 3 and Prompt 5 back online by tonight.

Prompt 2 will return to Skynet operation at the end of the current lunar dark cycle on March 5th.

Update 2/27/09

Despite the occasional clouds at CTIO last night, Prompt 3, 4, and 5 were all back online and taking exposures.
Prompt offline Posted on Feb 25, 2009 by Kevin
The PROMPT computers were affected by a security breach today. We are working as quickly as possible to determine the cause of the breach and return the computers to safe, reliable operation. Unfortunately, in the meantime all of the PROMPT telescopes will be offline. We hope to have at least some of the telescopes back online within two days, and will post here with any updates.
Prompt 5 back online Posted on Jan 26, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
We have returned Prompt 5 to full operation. After several days of testing the control computer for the telescope, we believe that the failure on the 20th was an isolated incident.
Prompt 5 down Posted on Jan 20, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
At 11:16pm EST we lost contact with the control computer for Prompt 5. We will have a technician at CTIO investigate the problem as soon as possible, but Prompt 5 will be unavailable until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Prompt 2 offline Posted on Jan 18, 2009 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 2 is now offline for the January lunar dark cycle. The telescope will return to regular Skynet control on January 27th after the first quarter moon.
P2 Camera Swap (redux) Posted on Nov 9, 2008 by Cluze
Due to an adjustment that needs to be carried out by Apogee on the new camera, P2's camera was swapped out for the old camera early this week.  The new camera is being shipped back to the US for the repair work.
P5 - P4 SDSS Filter Change Posted on Nov 3, 2008 by Cluze
The SDSS r', i', and z' filters from P5 made by Barr have been moved to empty slots on P4.  In their place, SDSS r', i', and z' filters made by Custom Scientific have been installed.  Due to minor variations in the manufacturing process, there may be some minor differences in the filter response curves, so some care is suggested if you are comparing images taken on P5 both before and after the swap.  This should only be important if you are attempting to do very precise absolute photometry. 

Our apologies for this sudden change, but it is the first step in a more robust filter strategy that is coming in several weeks.  We will have a post about the major changes soon and hopefully far enough in advance of the actual changes so that you can plan your observations accordingly. 

Although we don't anticipate any problems, please let us know if you find any major differences between the two SDSS filter sets.
P3 Tracking Error Posted on Nov 2, 2008 by Cluze
At the beginning of the night of Nov 1-2, P3 was in a strange state where it failed to turn on tracking.  Several observations went through before this error was noticed.  It should be back to normal now, but any images taken during this time (from about Sunset to ~1:00 UTC) are likely streaked beyond all recognition.
P2 Camera Swap Posted on Oct 31, 2008 by Cluze
The camera on P2 was changed at the beginning of the night of Oct 29-30th 2008.  The old camera was a mid-band coated camera that had some coating damage from an icing problem we had a while back.  It has been replaced with a broad-band coated camera that has no such coating damage.  This may be important to anyone with ongoing observations on P2.  We apologize for any inconvenience  this may have caused.
CTIO trip update Posted on Oct 26, 2008 by Kevin
We have been at CTIO working on Prompt for five nights now, and have a few items to report:
  • Promptcam is working again. Watch our progress on Prompt at http://skynet.unc.edu/promptcam/
  • The filter wheel on Prompt 5 began having intermittent problems on Oct 14th, and appears to have stopped moving altogether starting around the 18th. We fixed this problem on the morning of the 24th. Color-dependent work done on Prompt 5 from Oct 14 thru Oct 23 should not be trusted. We apologize for not finding this problem sooner, and we are now developing software to detect this kind of failure automatically.
  • All of the mirrors have been cleaned
  • Prompt 2 will be offline from tomorrow (Oct 27) until November 7th for the lunar dark cycle.
We have been performing a great deal of regular maintenance to keep the Prompt hardware healthy, and have also been running a number of tests to improve pointing and tracking performance. We will keep you updated as we continue to work on the telescopes.
Upcoming maintenance trip to Prompt Posted on Oct 2, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Our next maintenance trip to Prompt is scheduled from October 21st thru November 2nd. In addition to performing regular maintenance, we hope to make many small improvements to the performance of the telescopes.

While we are at Prompt, we may take some of the telescopes offline during the night for testing. We will try to keep at least two telescopes online each evening, and we will give advance notice when possible, but it may be hard to tell in advance which telescopes we will need to work on. If you have a time-sensitive observation that requires a particular telescope on a given night, please let us know by contacting skynetweb (at) physics.unc.edu.
Prompt 3 online; upcoming P2 dark cycle Posted on Aug 21, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
The dome for Prompt 3 was repaired today, and the telescope will be available tonight. We will continue to monitor the weather manually and keep the domes open until at least 1am EDT (weather permitting) for the next few nights.

The August/September lunar dark cycle runs from August 22nd through September 7th. As usual, Prompt 2 may be taken offline for private use during that time.
P3 dome; weather update Posted on Aug 21, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Tonight we determined that the dome controller for Prompt 3 has failed. We believe that this, the weather station outage, and a number of other minor issues detected at Prompt were caused by a lightning strike or some similar event. We hope to have a replacement controller installed in the next few days, but Prompt 3 will be offline until then.

We are still awaiting news on the state of the weather station, but it may be at least several more days before it is back online. In the meantime, we will try to manually monitor the weather and keep the domes open as much as possible. Because a human must be in the loop, there will unfortunately be a few restrictions while operating in this mode:
  1. The telescopes will normally only be open for the first half of the night. (We need our sleep!)
  2. We will only open when the weather is expected to remain consistently clear and calm.
  3. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to do this every night.
We apologize for the inconvenience, and appreciate your understanding.
Weather station outage at Prompt Posted on Aug 20, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Earlier this week there were a few days of very bad weather at CTIO. During this time, the on-site weather station was knocked offline. PROMPT depends on this data to determine when it is safe to open the domes, so the telescopes have not been observing even though the weather cleared up a few nights ago.

We have been in contact with the on-site staff at CTIO about this problem, and we hope that they will bring the weather station back online within the next few days.
New search feature Posted on Aug 6, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
We have added a new search feature to the Observation Manager page. You can now filter your observations by their state: in progress, complete, or cancelled. For example, by searching for "in progress" observations, you can easily find and cancel any old active jobs that you no longer need.

We have also implemented some performance improvements; some parts of the website should now be much more responsive.
P2 and P3 pointing corrections; shutter update Posted on Aug 6, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
For the past few nights, the pointing on Prompt 2 has been off by about 20 arcminutes in both RA and Dec. This afternoon we were finally able to track down the source of the problem and implement a fix. The pointing on P2 should be back to normal.

Also, we have had a fair amount of trouble with pointing on Prompt 3 the past few months. The pointing occasionally jumps by 4.7 arcminutes in declination, or 3.8 arcminutes in RA. We now understand the source of this problem very well, and should have a permanent (we hope!) fix implemented in the next few days. In the meantime, the immediate pointing problem on P3 has been corrected, and pointing should be stable until we complete the permanant fix.

Finally, we have done some testing with the shutter on Prompt 5's camera, and the problem is not as severe as we first feared. It looks like the shutter sticks open only after very short exposures (0.03 seconds or less) and only at certain telescope orientations. Plans are in motion to repair or replace the shutter, but for now the vast majority of exposures will be unaffected by this problem.
Prompt 5 shutter problem; P2 dark cycle Posted on Jul 31, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Last night we determined that the camera shutter on Prompt 5 is not closing properly. In some orientations, the shutter blades fall open and reveal a 1-2 mm opening. As a result, you may see vertical streaks extending from bright objects near the center of some images. (See, for example, this image of Neptune).

The telescope will remain online most of the time until we find the best way to fix this problem. In the meantime, please be aware of the problem and use another telescope if this interferes with your work.

Also, we are currently in the Prompt 2 lunar dark cycle for July/August. The telescope has mostly been online for the first part of this cycle, but may be taken offline for dedicated use at any point between now and the end of the cycle on August 8th.
U filter moved from P5 to P3; Camera orientations changed Posted on Jul 2, 2008 by Kevin
We have moved the U filter from Prompt 5 back to Prompt 3. This re-introduces an Open slot on Prompt 5.

We also re-oriented the cameras on these two telescopes so that the Y image axis is almost exactly North-South aligned. If you are using plate-matching algorithms that depend on image orientation, you will want to update these values. (The orientation of the camera on Prompt 4 remains offset by about 4 degrees.)
Prompt 4 and 5 pointing models; Upcoming dark cycle Posted on Jun 25, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Today some adjustments were made to the hardware on Prompt 4 and Prompt 5, and we will need to build new pointing models as a result. Both telescopes will be offline for the first few hours of this evening while we perform the necessary maintenance and testing.

As a reminder, the June/July dark cycle begins tomorrow, and Prompt 2 will be taken offline. P2 will return to Skynet control on July 11.
New features; Prompt 2 online Posted on Jun 14, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
We have added two new features to the observation manager:
  • When submitting observations with multiple filters, all exposures for a given filter are normally taken consecutively (e.g. B, B, B, V, V, V, R, R, R, I, I, I). A new option allows you to switch the filter after each exposure (e.g. B, V, R, I, B, V, R, I...)
  • It is now possible to request multiple exposure lengths for a given filter in a single job. Multiple exposure lengths can be entered as a comma-separated list of values. For example, if you want 5, 10, and 20 second exposures of a particular target, enter "5,10,20" in the duration box where you normally enter exposure length.
In other news, Prompt 2 returned to automated control on June 11th. The next lunar dark cycle begins on June 26th.
Moved U filter from P3 to P5 (temporary) Posted on May 29, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Today we moved a U filter from Prompt 3 to the Open slot on Prompt 5. This move was necessary in order to perform some field calibrations for recent GRB data.

Although we plan to rethink our filter strategy on Prompt soon, this particular move is only temporary. We intend to move the U filter back to Prompt 3 after we take the necessary data (hopefully within a week or two).
Prompt 2 offline for June dark cycle Posted on May 28, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Starting today, Prompt 2 will be offline for the June dark cycle. The telescope will return to Skynet control on June 11th or 12th.
Maintenance schedule - update #3 Posted on May 21, 2008 by Kevin
Last night we verified that all of our telescopes have significant (1-2 arcminute) backlash effects in declination in some parts of the sky. This problem has major implications for building pointing models, and we believe it is a major contributor to inconsistent pointing at Prompt.

We have decided not to rebuild our pointing models until this problem is fixed. However, we are hopeful that the telescopes will perform much better once we track down this problem.

Over the next week, expect Prompt 2 and Prompt 3 to be offline occasionally during the first half of the night while we diagnose this issue. Given the erratic weather we have been experiencing, I won't try to post another schedule -- but if you need a particular telescope on a particular night, just let us know.
Updated telescope maintenance schedule Posted on May 20, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Because of the bad weather at Prompt this weekend, we have changed our schedule for building new pointing models. Our new (tentative) schedule for telescope outages is as follows:

May 20: Prompt 3 (and Prompt 2 for about an hour early in the evening)
May 21: Prompt 2
May 22: Both Prompt 2 and Prompt 3 (for specialized observation)
May 23: Prompt 4
May 24: Prompt 5

As always, please contact us (skynetweb [at] physics.unc.edu) if you would like us to adjust this schedule to work around your observations.
Upcoming telescope events (UPDATED) Posted on May 17, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Tonight (May 18th, or the next night with good weather), we will be taking Prompt 2 and Prompt 3 offline from evening twilight until 0200 UT to run a custom observing sequence. The telescopes will return to Skynet control shortly after 0200 UT.

In addition, we plan to update the pointing models on all of the telescopes over the next week. This will involve taking each telescope offline for the first half of the night. We will only work on one telescope per evening, and the other three Prompt scopes should continue to be available during this time.

If you need a particular telescope on a particular night for your observations, email us (skynetweb [at] physics.unc.edu) and we will work around your schedule.

Weather permitting, our tentative schedule is as follows:
Prompt 2: May 19
Prompt 3: May 20
Prompt 4: May 21
Prompt 5: May 22

UPDATE: Because of bad weather last night at CTIO, the original schedule has been changed. The dates listed above have been updated to reflect this.
Prompt 2 online Posted on May 13, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
The May lunar dark cycle has come to an end and Prompt 2 is now back under Skynet control. The telescope should continue to be available until the last quarter moon on May 27th.
Prompt 5 repaired Posted on Apr 22, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
On Sunday afternoon a technician was able to repair the filter wheel on Prompt 5, and the telescope appears to have functioned properly the past two nights. Feel free to resume using P5 for regular observations. We will keep a close eye on this telescope for the next week in case the filter wheel develops any new problems.
Prompt 5 filter wheel problem (again!) Posted on Apr 19, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
The filter wheel on Prompt 5 malfunctioned once again last night. It appears to have become stuck on the B filter sometime early in the evening.

We will have a technician look at the filter wheel as soon as possible, though this probably won't happen until Monday. In the meantime, Prompt 5 will be offline.
Prompt 5 update Posted on Apr 16, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Upon further examination of Prompt 5's filter problem, we have determined that the wheel was stuck on the zprime filter after it failed on April 10th. We hope that much of the recent data from Prompt 5 will still be useful if this is taken into account.

The problem turned out to be a fairly simple mechanical issue. The filter wheel has been repaired and tested, and Prompt 5 will be back online tonight.
Prompt 5 filter wheel problem Posted on Apr 15, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Tonight we detected a critical problem with Prompt 5's filter wheel. As far as we can tell right now, the telescope has been using the same filter for all observations the past 5 days.

The failure evidently happened shortly after April 10th, 04:45 UT.  FILTER-CRITICAL OBSERVATIONS TAKEN WITH PROMPT 5 SINCE THIS TIME SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED.

We will have an on-site technician investigate the problem as soon as possible. Prompt 5 will be offline until this issue is resolved.
Prompt 2 online tomorrow; Prompt 3 returns Posted on Apr 13, 2008 by Kevin
Tonight is the last night of the lunar dark cycle, so Prompt 2 will be online for Skynet use tomorrow night (April 13th). P2 will remain online until the April 28th, the start of the next dark cycle.

Also, we returned Prompt 3 to full service on April 1st. The telescope had been having random pointing problems that were very difficult to track down. We were initially hesitant to announce Prompt 3's return, fearing that the problem would come up again. However, at this point we feel confident that the problem has been fixed and that the scope is ready for full use.
Prompt 5 online; Prompt 2 offline for April dark cycle Posted on Mar 31, 2008 by Kevin
The dome on Prompt 5 was repaired on Friday, and the telescope was working well over the weekend. Feel free to resume submitting P5 jobs.

As of last night, Prompt 2 is offline for the April lunar dark cycle. The telescope will be under the direct control of a group of astronomers until April 13th after the first quarter moon.
Prompt 5 dome problem Posted on Mar 27, 2008 by Kevin
Prompt 5's dome stopped responding to computer commands early in the evening on the 25th. We suspect a minor hardware malfunction that should be easy to fix. We have asked for somebody on-site to perform the repair, and hope to have Prompt 5 back online in the next day or two.
Prompt 2 online Posted on Mar 19, 2008 by Kevin
Prompt 2 returned to Skynet control on March 15. The telescope will remain online until the next lunar dark cycle begins on March 29.

I apologize for being late in posting this notice.
Prompt 2 offline for March dark cycle Posted on Feb 28, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 2 will be unavailable for Skynet use starting tonight. For the two weeks of dark time during each lunar cycle, Prompt 2 is operated directly by a group of astronomers.

P2 should come back online on March 15th after the moon as passed first quarter.
Bad images on P2 last night Posted on Feb 27, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Due to a configuration error that went unnoticed until this morning, all of last night's images from Prompt 2 were taken with the wrong camera. P2 is equipped with a wide-field refractor in addition to the main 16" telescope, and the camera on the refractor was accidentally set as the active camera when regular observations began.

The problematic images are easily identified. The images are 2184 x 1472 pixel rectangular images, as opposed to the regular 1024 x 1024 square images that come from P2's main camera. All of these images are either out of focus or badly saturated.

The calibration images taken with this camera have been removed so that Prompt 2 can resume taking scheduled calibrations with the main camera this evening. The other images taken last night will remain in place for now, but may be removed in the future.

Prompt 2 should be back to normal tonight, and we will keep a close eye on it for the first part of the night. I apologize for the inconvenience.
Prompt 2 online; planned maintenance on P4 and P5 Posted on Feb 20, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
We brought Prompt 2 back online last night after performing a bit of maintenance during the first half of the evening. P2 should remain online until the start of the next lunar dark cycle around Feb. 29th.

We plan to build new pointing models for Prompt 4 and Prompt 5 on the 21st or the 22nd. This should only take a few hours in the early part of the evening. If you are planning to perform a time-critical observation on either of these telescopes in the next few nights, e-mail us (skynetweb [at] physics [dot] unc [dot] edu) and we can reschedule this maintenance.

UPDATE - 2/21/08

Last night the humidity was too high for automated operation. However, the skies were clear, so I manually operated the telescopes and built new pointing models during what would otherwise have been downtime. Assuming these new models work well, the telescopes should continue with uninterrupted operation as the weather permits.
Prompt 2 status Posted on Feb 19, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen

Dark cycle use of Prompt 2 ended around February 13th. During this dark cycle, a different camera was being evaluated on the telescope.

Unfortunately, there has been some delay in getting the original camera reinstalled on P2, and the telescope has been offline as a result. We hope that the system will be back online within the next two nights.

Prompt 2 offline for February dark cycle Posted on Jan 29, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Starting tonight, Prompt 2 will be taken off Skynet  for this month's lunar dark cycle. During this time, the telescope is controlled directly by a group of astronomers.

Prompt 2 will be back online at the end of the dark cycle, around February 13th.
TTT pointing issue Posted on Jan 20, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Images taken by TTT in the early evening of the 20th had 28-arcminute pointing errors in right ascension. As a result, the expected targets do not appear in these images.

The problem was fixed around 5:15 UTC (10:15pm local time at TTT) and pointing should be good for the rest of the observing night. We apologize for this interruption in service.
Prompt 2 available for general use Posted on Jan 19, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
Each month during lunar dark time, Prompt 2 is taken offline for about two weeks to be operated directly by a group of astronomers. Dark time begins with the third quarter moon, continues through new moon, and ends with the first quarter moon.

Prompt 2 returned to automated operation on January 16th, and will continue to be available until approximately January 31st.

We will begin posting announcements about Prompt 2 at the beginning and end of each dark cycle.
TTT online; Promptcam down again Posted on Jan 14, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
A few months ago, the dome used by TTT experienced a hardware failure. It took quite a bit of effort to get the necessary replacement parts, and attempts to repair the dome had been hindered by heavy snowfall over the past several weeks. However, TTT's dome is working once again, and the telescope has been back on Skynet for the past three nights. The telescope appears to be operating well, and we invite everyone to submit jobs on this telescope.

Keep in mind that the weather in Colorado is unpredictable this time of year, so there are likely to be a number of nights when image quality will be affected by partly cloudy skies or high thin clouds. Moreover, the observatory will be closed entirely on nights with heavy clouds or high winds. Nevertheless, we will attempt to keep the telescope working as many nights as possible.

Finally, regarding Promptcam - it seems we spoke too soon in our diagnosis of the problem. The error has returned, and Promptcam will be unavailable until we can work out a more permanent fix.
Promptcam back up Posted on Jan 11, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
We upgraded Promptcam during our last trip to Chile in November 2007. The new camera is much clearer and supports higher resolution images. Please compare an old Promptcam image to a typical image from the new camera.

On January 1, 2008, the computer controlling Promptcam developed a problem and Promptcam was taken offline. This morning we were able to fix the problem, and live images are now available.

You can see a live view of Prompt on the Promptcam webpage: http://skynet.unc.edu/promptcam
Prompt 4 focus problem fixed Posted on Jan 7, 2008 by Kevin Ivarsen
On Jan 2 we replaced the focus motor power supply on Prompt 4. The focus motor has been working reliably since then, so we believe that this problem has been fixed.
Prompt 4 focus problem last night Posted on Dec 26, 2007 by Kevin
Last night the focus controller on Prompt 4 experienced a slight malfunction early in the night. As a result, most of last night's images from Prompt 4 were very far out of focus. Because of the Christmas holiday, this problem was not detected until this morning.

We believe that the problem has now been fixed. I apologize for any inconvenience.

UPDATE - 12/29/2007
The focus problem appears to be more serious than we first suspected. As a result, Prompt 4 has gone very far out of focus several times over the past few nights. We are working to solve this problem, but P4 may be offline until we can find a solution.
Out of focus images on Prompt 5 Posted on Nov 4, 2007 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 5 images from the second half of last night were very far out of focus due to a configuration error on the new control computer. We noticed the problem this morning and fixed the error. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Prompt 5 back online; Upcoming camera swap Posted on Nov 3, 2007 by Cluze
We arrived at Prompt this morning, and we were able to get Prompt 5 online fairly quickly. It is back up tonight performing observations, and Prompt 5 has been re-enabled as an available telescope when submitting new jobs on the website.

In order to balance our increasingly diverse science goals, we are going to need to move around both some filters and some cameras.  The broad-band optimized camera currently on P4 will be swapping places with the mid-band optimized camera on P5.  Please contact us at skynetweb (at) physics (dot) unc (dot) edu if this will cause any severe difficulties with any currently ongoing science projects.  The timing of these changes is somewhat constrained by our current presence in Chile, but we don't want to make life too hard for anyone (including ourselves.)  We will post more details of what will change soon.
Upcoming maintenance trip Posted on Oct 29, 2007 by Kevin Ivarsen
We will be taking a maintenance trip to PROMPT from November 2nd until the 14th. One of our first tasks will be to fix Prompt 5's control computer and bring it back online. We hope to have Prompt 5 ready for use again by Sunday night.

Unfortunately, much of the work we are doing will involve nighttime testing. Please note the following service interruptions:
  • Prompt 2 will be down the majority of the time, as it is receiving significant hardware upgrades that will need to be fully tested.
  • The remaining Prompt telescopes will occasionally be unavailable as we discover issues that need to be diagnosed and tested at nighttime. We will try not to take more than one of these telescopes offline at any one time.
  • Finally, the site maintainer for TTT will be visiting Prompt with us. Because there will not be anybody on site that can attend to emergencies with the telescope, TTT will be closed until November 11th.
Thank you for your understanding as we work to improve these telescopes. We will post a trip report after we return to the U.S.
Prompt 5 update Posted on Oct 19, 2007 by Kevin Ivarsen
Yesterday we had a CTIO technician look at Prompt 5's control computer. One of the hard drives in the machine has failed, and although we have a mirrored backup hard drive installed, it seems that the system has become unstable.

We have asked for this computer to be replaced with a spare. Unfortunately, the new machine might not be installed until after this weekend. Until that time, Prompt 5 will be unavailable.
Prompt 4 up, Prompt 5 down Posted on Oct 17, 2007 by Kevin Ivarsen
Today a technician at CTIO found that the secondary mirror assembly on Prompt 4 was loose. He was able to tighten it down, and the telescope is in slightly better collimation. Prompt 4 is now back online and is producing images that are acceptable for some applications, but we will not be able to repair it fully until we can recollimate the telescope during our November maintenance trip.

Early tonight we had trouble contacting the control computer for Prompt 5, and we suspect either a power or network failure in that dome. Prompt 5 will be unavailable at least until we can have somebody at CTIO look at the computer tomorrow.
Prompt 4 collimation problem Posted on Oct 16, 2007 by Kevin Ivarsen
Something in the optical path on Prompt 4 seems to have changed in the past few days. We noticed that the telescope was quite out of focus and the pointing had shifted by about 6 arcminutes. Further tests showed that the telescope is now badly out of collimation, and it is almost impossible to focus it and produce reasonable images.

Our next maintenance trip to Prompt is in early November, and we will be able to recollimate the telescope at that time. Until then, the telescope may only be online in limited capacity and will not be producing high quality images.
Flat problem fixed Posted on Oct 9, 2007 by Kevin
A bug in our software was preventing new flat observations from being generated by Skynet. This bug has been fixed, and this evening all of the telescopes began taking new sets of flats. This include the first set of flats for Prompt 3 since it was brought back online.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this gap in calibration images may have caused.
Prompt 3 and TTT back online Posted on Oct 3, 2007 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 3 is now back on Skynet with a repaired camera. We have also done some work on maintenance work on TTT and it will once again be available on nights with good weather. Please feel free to begin submitting jobs on these telescopes.
Prompt 2 down for testing Posted on Oct 1, 2007 by Kevin Ivarsen
Prompt 2 will be unavailable for the next 2-3 days while we test some new equipment. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Prompt 4 and 5 will continue to be available. In addition, a repaired camera was just installed on Prompt 3, so we expect to have that telescope back on Skynet within the next few days.
Prompt 2 Dome Problem - Fixed Posted on Sep 12, 2007 by Kevin
The dome control box on Prompt 2 has not been working for the past few days. Prompt 2 will be unavailable until we can install a replacement box and carefully test dome control with it.

UPDATE 9/18/2007

The dome was repaired on the 13th and Prompt 2 has been working well ever since. Please feel free to schedule jobs on this telescope again.
FTP returns to fungrb Posted on Aug 10, 2007 by Kevin
The FTP site is once again being hosted on fungrb.physics.unc.edu. Will will continue to operate the bebop.physics.unc.edu site for a few days, but all new data will be hosted on fungrb.
Data server transition; FTP changes Posted on Aug 2, 2007 by Kevin
We just finished moving our data server to a temporary machine while we upgrade our RAID to 6 terabytes of storage space. This transition also includes major changes to our data management software. As with any major change, there may be a few problems during these first few days. Please email skynetweb [at] physics.unc.edu if you notice any problems.

There are a few important changes that you should know about:
  • During this transition, the FTP server is hosted at bebop.physics.unc.edu. If you use FTP, please use this host instead of fungrb. I will post again once we have moved back to fungrb.
  • If you are a member of multiple groups, the FTP server no longer needs a username@groupname login. Just log in with your Skynet username and password, and you will have access to all of your data.
  • The JPEG display code shows the images a bit differently now. I am testing a number of new algorithms to automatically set brightness and contrast. Some images look better (in particular, flats and darks can be viewed as JPEGs now), but some images may look worse. I will continue to tweak the code to find a happy medium that makes all images look reasonable. Eventually we will allow users to set their own preferences for how images are displayed.
  • Finally, the JPEG display now shows saturated pixels in red, and nearly saturated pixels in yellow. This will help observers quickly determine if they are exposing on a field for too long and losing potential calibration stars.
P4 and P5 available; P2 shutter fixed; Object lookup problems Posted on Jul 27, 2007 by Kevin
We are pleased to announce that Prompt 4 and Prompt 5 are available once again, giving us three active telescopes. We may take each telescope offline for a few hours sometime during the next few nights to build new pointing models. If your work requires uninterrupted use of the telescope, please contact us and we can schedule our maintenance around your needs.

We discovered on July 24 that the shutter on Prompt 2 was stuck open. This problem was fixed on the afternoon of the 25th, but we are not yet sure how long the shutter had been stuck this way. All images taken on Prompt 2 during the nights before July 25 should be considered questionable as far as photometry is concerned.

Finally, the object coordinate lookup feature continues to go down intermittently. This is caused by outages of the SIMBAD database server at CDS in France. We have contacted the SIMBAD administrators about this problem and they will be working to fix it over the next several days.
Object lookups working again Posted on Jul 25, 2007 by Kevin
Many of you have noticed that the catalog lookup feature on the Add Observation page has not been working for the past few days. The external service that we were using to look up object coordinates has been having some problems recently. We are now using a new service, and catalog lookups should be working again.

If you have any trouble searching for object coordinates by name, please contact skynetweb (at) physics.unc.edu.
Prompt 5 temporarily down Posted on Jul 22, 2007 by Kevin
Prompt 5 is currently experiencing a problem with the focuser. We hope to have this fixed by later tonight or tomorrow. Watch this page for updates.

UPDATE - 7/24/2007
The focus problem appears to be more serious than we had anticipated. We are going to replace our focus controller with a spare device, and hope to have it working soon.
Welcome to the new server! Posted on Jul 17, 2007 by Kevin
Welcome to the new Skynet server! The Skynet website should now be accessed through http://skynet.unc.edu. If you have any bookmarks or web links pointing to fungrb, please update them as your earliest convenience.

fungrb.physics.unc.edu will now host data and images. In particular, FTP access will continue to work through fungrb. However, we will be moving FTP to a temporary machine in the next few days while we upgrade the fungrb server. If you use FTP, please keep an eye on this page for updates.

We apologize for any trouble you may experience as we work out all the kinks in this server move. This new server should result in faster response times, more storage space for data, and of course a nicer web address. If you spot any problems, please contact skynetweb (at) physics.unc.edu.
New camera on Prompt 2; New pointing model on Prompt 5 Posted on Jul 11, 2007 by Kevin
A repaired midband camera arrived at CTIO today and has been installed at Prompt 2 at the request of one of our major observers. I apologize for not giving advance notice of this switch - the camera was installed before I was notified of its impending arrival. I hope this change does not adversely affect any observations.

All new Prompt 2 observations should use darks and flats taken after July 11th.

Also, pointing on Prompt 5 has been very bad the past several nights. We built a new pointing model last night that should improve pointing accuracy.
Upcoming server move Posted on Jul 3, 2007 by Kevin
We will gradually be moving Skynet to a set of new servers over the next several days. After this transition, this website will be accessed from a new web address, so please be prepared to update your bookmarks.

The FTP server may occasionally be down during this move, and FTP services will work differently after the move. However, you can always access your data through the website. Please watch this site for news and updates.

If you notice any problems with the website or data retrieval, please e-mail skynetweb (at) physics.unc.edu
Prompt 4 down - camera problem Posted on Jun 20, 2007 by Kevin
Last night we found that the shutter on Prompt 4's camera is not working. This telescope will be down until we can fix the problem or get a replacement camera shipped down to Chile.

UPDATE - 6/21/2007
A new shutter will need to be shipped to Chile and installed on this camera. This should take approximately 10 days. I will post again when Prompt 4 is back online.
Prompt back up, June 15 Posted on Jun 15, 2007 by Kevin
After two days of storms at Prompt, the weather has cleared up. The telescope equipment is back online, and we hope the clear skies we see right now continue into the night.
Prompt down on June 13th Posted on Jun 13, 2007 by Kevin
CTIO is expecting very bad weather over the next 24-48 hours, including high winds, rain, and possibly snow. To protect the Prompt telescopes, all equipment will be shut down and covered in tarps until this weather passes.

I will post here when Prompt is available again.
Prompt 5 back online Posted on Jun 11, 2007 by Kevin
The mount issue on Prompt 5 was repaired this morning. The telescope will be back online tonight.
Prompt 4 back on Skynet; Prompt 5 temporarily down Posted on Jun 8, 2007 by Kevin
We are happy to announce that Prompt 4 is back on Skynet and is now accepting observations. Here is the first Skynet image taken by Prompt 4 tonight.

Unfortunately, the mount for Prompt 5 developed a minor problem last night and the telescope is currently unable to observe. Fortunately, we expect the repair to be straightforward and Prompt 5 should be back online Monday night.
Prompt 2 camera swap Posted on Jun 4, 2007 by Kevin
This morning the camera on Prompt 2 was switched from an Apogee Alta UV camera to an Apogee Alta midband camera. This camera will likely remain on P2 until we can diagnose and repair the unusual effect that the new camera is showing around bright stars.

DARK_Prompt2_06_03_07 is the last set of darks that apply to the old camera, and Flat_Prompt2_05_26_07 is the last set of flats. A new set of darks and flats should begin tonight (06_04_07) for the new camera.
P2 camera swap Posted on May 29, 2007 by Kevin
We have spotted a strange artifact around bright stars on Prompt 2's new camera. On Thursday, May 31, we are planning to swap this camera with another to help diagnose the problem. If your work requires that we keep the current camera on Prompt 2 for a few more days, please contact us right away.

UPDATE - May 30, 2007
The camera swap has been delayed until Monday, June 4th. You can contact us via email if you have any questions. Our address is:  skynetweb (at) physics (dot) unc (dot) edu
New cameras on P2 and P5 Posted on May 15, 2007 by Kevin
The repaired cameras for Prompt 2 and Prompt 5 were installed on Friday, May 11. These new cameras were used for all observations taken that night. I apologize for the short notice in announcing this switch.

Please use care when selecting darks and flats for images that were taken around the time of this switch.
TTT returns to Skynet Posted on May 11, 2007 by Kevin
The Trubble Terrestrial Telescope (TTT) has rejoined Skynet after an extended outage. TTT is a 14.5" RCOS telescope located west of Fort Collins, CO.  Images from TTT have a field of view of 20 x 13.5 arcminutes and a resolution of 2184 x 1472 pixels.
We will be performing some tests on the system over the next few nights, but the telescope should generally be available for observations when the weather is good. We encourage everybody to start submitting jobs on TTT.

One other note - the cameras for Prompt 2 and Prompt 5 have been repaired and returned to Chile. The spare cameras currently on the two telescopes will be replaced with these cameras sometime in the next few days. We will follow up once the new cameras have been installed.
Improved connections to Prompt Posted on May 8, 2007 by Kevin
Two nights ago we diagnosed a problem that has been causing major network outages on the Prompt telescopes. This problem had drastically inhibited the number of observations performed by these telescopes over the past week.

This problem has been fixed, and last night we were able to take nearly 700 images with Prompt 5.
Skynet authorship policy Posted on May 4, 2007 by Kevin
We have posted a link to the Skynet authorship policy in the left column. If you plan to publish work based on Skynet data, please have a look at the policy.
Prompt 5 returns Posted on Apr 16, 2007 by Kevin
The replacement camera for Prompt 5 arrived and was installed last Thursday. We wanted to test the system a bit before publicly announcing P5's availability, but the telescope has been operating normally since Thursday evening.

The first set of flats taken with this new camera can be found in job #15336. (Note that although this flat job was submitted on March 24th, none of the flats were actually taken until April 12th. All flats in this job were taken with the new camera.)

This camera has a broadband coating on the CCD chip, as opposed to the midband coating found on P5's normal camera. Please keep this in mind if your work might be affected by the change.
Prompt 5 down for at least 10 days Posted on Mar 25, 2007 by Kevin
We had more bad luck with Prompt 5 this weekend. The vacuum seal of the camera's optical chamber failed, allowing a small amount of water vapor to enter. When the CCD chip is cooled the -20C, this water condenses and freezes on the chip. See, for example, this flat image taken Saturday night.

To avoid damaging the camera, we have removed the camera from the telescope. We are shipping it back to the U.S. immediately for repair.

A replacement camera is being sent to Chile, but it will take at least 10 days to arrive. In the meantime, Prompt 5 will be unavailable.

If your observations do not specifically require Prompt 5, we encourage you to use Prompt 2. This telescope will be online and available for at least two weeks beginning tomorrow (Monday, March 26th).
Prompt 5 available again Posted on Mar 23, 2007 by Kevin
This morning's repair of the Prompt 5 focus motor appears to have been successful. The telescope should be available for use tonight (March 23rd).
Prompt 5 status Posted on Mar 21, 2007 by Kevin
The focus repair on Prompt 5 is going to be more involved than we had originally anticipated. The telescope will be down again tonight (March 21), and may be down for a few more days until we can resolve this problem.

I will post another announcement when P5 is available for nightly use again. We apologize for this inconvenience.
Prompt 5 down Posted on Mar 20, 2007 by Kevin
The focus module on Prompt 5 stopped working today, so the telescope will be unavailable tonight (March 20). We should have a replacement part in place by tomorrow night.
Prompt 5 Maintenance, March 13 Posted on Mar 13, 2007 by Kevin
Prompt 5  will be down tonight (March 13) so we can build a new pointing model. If you have any critical observations which must be observed tonight, please notify skynetweb@physics.unc.edu immediately.

The new pointing model should be in place by the end of this week.
Prompt2 availability Posted on Mar 6, 2007 by Kevin
Over the past few several weeks, Prompt 5 has kept busy with an ever-growing queue of observation requests. However, Prompt 2 has had a much smaller list of requests to work through, and has even spent large portions of the night idle.

If the filters on Prompt 2 are suitable for your work, we encourage you to submit some of your jobs to that telescope so that we can distribute the load more evenly. Please note, however, that right now this telescope is only under Skynet control about 50% of the time, so it is not a good choice for doing all-night work.
PROMPT5 filter changes Posted on Mar 3, 2007 by Dan Reichart
Upon learning that our Rc and Ic filters are close to, but not exactly Rc and Ic, and that our R and I filters are vitually identical to Rc and Ic, we have removed the Rc and Ic filters from PROMPT5 and replaced them with r' and i' filters.
Bright star checks Posted on Jan 31, 2007 by Kevin
We have added a feature to the observation manager to prevent observers from accidentally overexposing fields with very bright stars. The "Add Exposures" page of the observation manager now displays a warning if there is a bright star in the field, and the website puts a limit on how long the exposures can be.

We have also added a link to the CTIO webcam under "Beta Tools". This webcam shows the top of Cerro Tololo and can give a general indication of the sky conditions at PROMPT during the day. At night the camera shows some white spots, but please note that these are not stars. They are simply imperfections in the camera's CCD chip that only appear in low-light conditions.
Prompt status Posted on Jan 10, 2007 by Kevin
We returned from our most recent Prompt maintenance trip on December 26th, and Prompt 5 has observed every night since then. Due to an inconsistent network connection, Prompt 5 is not performing as many observations per night as it should, but we are investigating the issue.

We expect Prompt 2 to begin observing again tonight, although only for half nights. We are currently sharing the telescope with Star Shadows Remote Observatory, so it will not always under Skynet control for the next few weeks. However, P2 has a new filter wheel with 10 filters, which will make it a much more useful telescope to many observers.

As the rest of our CCD cameras are repaired and sent back to us, we will be able to put more telescopes back on Skynet. We don't have a definite timeframe for this, but it will likely be a month or more before more Prompt telescopes are returned to full nightly operation.
Prompt maintenance trip Posted on Dec 22, 2006 by Kevin
Three members of the Prompt team are currently in Chile doing maintenance work on the telescopes. We have been here since December 11th, and will leave on Christmas day. Because of the work we have been doing, the telescopes have mostly been unavailable to Skynet users since the 11th. My apologies for not informing everybody about this sooner - a network problem has prevented us from accessing and editing this page from the Prompt site.

We are making a number of improvements to Prompt:
  • In collaboration with Star Shadows Remote Observatory, a field rotator and autoguider have been added to Prompt 2. The first image using this new equipment was of NGC 2297 and can be viewed on their web page. We plan to add an interface to this new hardware through the website in the next two months.
  • We have set up new computers with fresh installs of our telescope control software. The new computers are faster and should be much more reliable than our old setup. In addition, we have several spare machines that can be swapped in and set up in just a few hours in case of a hardware failure.
  • We discovered and fixed a network problem that was slowing data transfer significantly. Images should now be sent back to UNC anywhere from 3 to 10 times faster. This bandwidth boost will also make remote maintenance work much easier.
  • We have written software to automatically build dense pointing models that should improve pointing accuracy significantly on all telescopes. We are currently evaluating how well we can do blind pointing with these telescopes given arbitrarily dense models.
  • We are working to collimate all of the telescopes. For the past few nights we have consistently seen stars with FWHM values of 1.5 to 1.8 arcseconds on Prompt 4.
  • We are also working to improve the tracking performance and build accurate PEC curves on all of our telescopes. We have seen excellent 300 second exposures on Prompt 4 without autoguiding.
  • Finally, we are working to remove the condensation that has formed inside our cameras. A few months ago the mountain was covered in dense fog, and we have seen ice in many of our images ever since. This was the result of a known problem with the sealing of the optical chamber, and the cameras will be sent to the manufacturer for repair. However, in the short term we believe we have minimized the amount of moisture in each camera.
Unfortunately, we will be short on cameras after this trip. One is being sent back for a CCD readout problem, and one will be sent back soon for the optical chamber seal retrofit. This may leave us with only one or two telescopes (most likely P2 and P5) under Skynet control for the next month.
Prompt3 calibration images Posted on Nov 15, 2006 by Kevin
As noted in the previous announcement, we changed the Prompt3 camera on Monday, Nov 13. The last calibration images from the old camera are contained in the jobs DARK_Prompt3_11_08_06 and FLAT_Prompt3_11_08_06. The first calibration images from the new camera are in DARK_Prompt3_11_09_06 and FLAT_Prompt3_11_09_06.

Please note that although the new dark and flat jobs were submitted on 11/09/06 (before the camera was replaced), no images in these jobs were actually taken until last night, Nov 14. All of the images from these jobs are safe to use on observations taken with the new camera.
Prompt status report Posted on Nov 13, 2006 by Kevin
The Prompt maintenance team returned from Chile last week with a number of successes, and a few unfortunate problems.
  • Promptcam is working again. You can always see the latest image of Prompt by using the link on the left sidebar.
  • Prompt5 is performing very well right now. The collimation is excellent, and we have seen 1.6 arcsecond stars on good nights with short exposures. We also found that the streaked images and double stars we often saw on P5 were caused by a particularly bad periodic error in the worm gear. We now have a PEC model installed that has almost eliminated this problem.
  • Prompt4 is very badly out of collimation right now. It is rare to see an image with stars below 4 arcseconds. We will fix the collimation when we return to Chile in mid December.
  • Prompt3 had a strange camera failure a few nights ago where all of the images started to look like biases. We suspected a shutter problem, but today we confirmed that the shutter is working and nothing is blocking the optical path. The camera has been sent back for repair, and a new camera has been swapped in. The collimation on P3 is ok, but not as good as P5.
  • Prompt2 had a computer failure early during the maintenance trip, and our two spare computers also had problems. Prompt2 is down until our next trip in December.
  • Prompt1 has a new polarimeter instrument that is being tested and used manually right now. It cannot be scheduled through the website yet, but this should become available before the end of the year.
New features Posted on Oct 25, 2006 by Kevin
Two new features were added today:
  • The current universal time is displayed in the left sidebar
  • The current local sidereal time (the right ascension that is currently at transit) for each telescope is displayed under "Skynet Now".
Several other features were added a few weeks ago:
  • You can now search for planet and asteroid coordinates when you create a new observation
  • You can view previews of all archived images in an observation, allowing you to quickly scan for good and poor images
  • "Skynet Live" is now available to all users, giving you an up-to-the-second view of what Skynet is up to.
In other news, three members of the Prompt group are currently at CTIO working on the telescopes. The short list of goals for this trip is:
  • Repair Prompt 5's dome
  • Repair Prompt 4's mount issues
  • Install a new Prompt webcam
  • Install a boltwood cloud sensor
  • Install a polarimeter on Prompt 1
  • Create improved pointing models for all telescopes
  • Improve the collimation on all telescopes
Prompt5 down again Posted on Oct 11, 2006 by Kevin
The dome on Prompt 5 failed again last night. The telescope will be down until we can find a permanent fix for the dome issue.
Prompt5 back up Posted on Oct 10, 2006 by Kevin
The Prompt5 dome issue has been resolved, and the telescope should be able to observe tonight.
Prompt5 down Posted on Oct 10, 2006 by Kevin
Prompt5 has been down for the past few days due to a dome problem. We are working to get the issue resolved, and will post here when Prompt5 is operational again.
New download tools Posted on Aug 31, 2006 by Kevin
We have added two new links on each Observation page to aid in downloading multiple images:
  • You can download all images in an observation by clicking [Download all FITS (.zip)]
  • You can access the FTP site directly from the observation page
We have also written instructions for accessing the FTP site.
Elevation plot Posted on Aug 21, 2006 by Kevin
We have added a feature to the observation interface. When you create a new observation, the telescope selection screen displays a plot of the object's sky elevation over the next 24 hours at each telescope site. The plot lines are only shown when the sun is below the horizon at each site.

This tool should give users a better sense of when and where an object can be observed.
Beta tools Posted on Jul 17, 2006 by Kevin
The beta tools on the left panel are tools that we are writing as we need them. They have not yet been fully tested or properly integrated into the site. However, since some may find these tools useful, we felt it was important to make early public versions available.
New informational website and system flowchart Posted on Jul 13, 2006 by Kevin
We have created new informational websites for the Skynet and PROMPT projects.

Also, we have posted a new Powerpoint presentation containing an updated system flowchart and screenshots of the programs that compose Skynet. This presentation is intended to demonstrate the flow of an observation, from the time it is entered by the user to the time the results become available for retrieval.
New announcement system Posted on Jul 13, 2006 by Kevin
We have added a new announcement system to the webpage. Watch this space for new developments!