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  1. The DESI instrument control systems: status and early testing

    The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) is a new instrument currently under construction for the Mayall 4-m telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. It will consist of a wide-field optical corrector with a 3.2 degree diameter field of view, a focal plane with 5,000 robotically controlled fiber positioners and 10 fiber-fed broad-band spectrographs. The DESI Instrument Control System (ICS) coordinates fiber positioner operations, interfaces to the Mayall telescope control system, monitors operating conditions, reads out the 30 spectrograph CCDs and provides observer support and data quality monitoring. In this paper, we summarize the ICS design, review the current status ofmore » the project and present results from a multi-stage test plan that was developed to ensure the system is fully operational by the time the instrument arrives at the observatory in 2019.« less
  2. The SDSS data archive server

    The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Data Archive Server (DAS) provides public access to data files produced by the SDSS data reduction pipeline. This article discusses challenges in public distribution of data of this volume and complexity, and how the project addressed them. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)1 is an astronomical survey of covering roughly one quarter of the night sky. It contains images of this area, a catalog of almost 300 million objects detected in those images, and spectra of more than a million of these objects. The catalog of objects includes a variety of data on eachmore » object. These data include not only basic information but also fit parameters for a variety of models, classifications by sophisticated object classification algorithms, statistical parameters, and more. If the survey contains the spectrum of an object, the catalog includes a variety of other parameters derived from its spectrum. Data processing and catalog generation, described more completely in the SDSS Early Data Release2 paper, consists of several stages: collection of imaging data, processing of imaging data, selection of spectroscopic targets from catalogs generated from the imaging data, collection of spectroscopic data, processing of spectroscopic data, and loading of processed data into a database. Each of these stages is itself a complex process. For example, the software that processes the imaging data determines and removes some instrumental signatures in the raw images to create 'corrected frames', models the point spread function, models and removes the sky background, detects objects, measures object positions, measures the radial profile and other morphological parameters for each object, measures the brightness of each object using a variety of methods, classifies the objects, calibrates the brightness measurements against survey standards, and produces a variety of quality assurance plots and diagnostic tables. The complexity of the spectroscopic data reduction pipeline is similar. Each pipeline deposits the results in a collection of files on disk. The Catalog Archive Server (CAS) provides an interface to a database of objects detected through the SDSS along with their properties and observational metadata. This serves the needs of most users, but some users require access to files produced by the pipelines. Some data, including the corrected frames (the pixel data itself corrected for instrumental signatures), the models for the point spread function, and an assortment of quality assurance plots, are not included in the database at all. Sometimes it is simply more convenient for a user to read data from existing files than to retrieve it using database queries. This is often the case, for example, when a user wants to download data a significant fraction of objects in the database. Users might need to perform analysis that requires more computing power than the CAS database servers can reasonably provide, and so need to download the data so that it can be analyzed with local resources. Users can derive observational parameters not measured by the standard SDSS pipeline from the corrected frames, metadata, and other data products, or simply use the output of tools with which they're familiar. The challenge in distributing these data is lies not in the distribution method itself, but in providing tools and support that allow users to find the data they need and interpret it properly. After introducing the data itself, this article describes how the DAS uses ubiquitous and well understood technologies to manage and distribute the data. It then discusses how it addresses the more difficult problem of helping the public find and use the data it contains, despite its complexity of its content and organization.« less
  3. Running the Sloan Digital Sky Survey data archive server

    The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Data Archive Server (DAS) provides public access to over 12Tb of data in 17 million files produced by the SDSS data reduction pipeline. Many tasks which seem trivial when serving smaller, less complex data sets present challenges when serving data of this volume and technical complexity. The included output files should be chosen to support as much science as possible from publicly released data, and only publicly released data. Users must have the resources needed to read and interpret the data correctly. Server administrators must generate new data releases at regular intervals, monitor usage,more » quickly recover from hardware failures, and monitor the data served by the DAS both for contents and corruption. We discuss these challenges, describe tools we use to administer and support the DAS, and discuss future development plans.« less
  4. Status of the Dark Energy Survey Camera (DECam) project

    The Dark Energy Survey Collaboration has completed construction of the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), a 3 square degree, 570 Megapixel CCD camera which will be mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at CTIO. DECam will be used to perform the 5000 sq. deg. Dark Energy Survey with 30% of the telescope time over a 5 year period. During the remainder of the time, and after the survey, DECam will be available as a community instrument. All components of DECam have been shipped to Chile and post-shipping checkout finished in Jan. 2012. Installation is in progress. A summary of lessons learnedmore » and an update of the performance of DECam and the status of the DECam installation and commissioning will be presented.« less
  5. Wide-Field Astronomical Surveys in the Next Decade

    Wide-angle surveys have been an engine for new discoveries throughout the modern history of astronomy, and have been among the most highly cited and scientifically productive observing facilities in recent years. This trend is likely to continue over the next decade, as many of the most important questions in astrophysics are best tackled with massive surveys, often in synergy with each other and in tandem with the more traditional observatories. We argue that these surveys are most productive and have the greatest impact when the data from the surveys are made public in a timely manner. The rise of themore » 'survey astronomer' is a substantial change in the demographics of our field; one of the most important challenges of the next decade is to find ways to recognize the intellectual contributions of those who work on the infrastructure of surveys (hardware, software, survey planning and operations, and databases/data distribution), and to make career paths to allow them to thrive.« less
  6. A New Milky Way dwarf galaxy in Ursa Major

    In this Letter, we report the discovery of a new dwarf satellite to the Milky Way, located at ({alpha}{sub 2000}, {delta}{sub 2000}) = (158.72,51.92) in the constellation of Ursa Major. This object was detected as an overdensity of red, resolved stars in Sloan Digital Sky Survey data. The color-magnitude diagram of the Ursa Major dwarf looks remarkably similar to that of Sextans, the lowest surface brightness Milky Way companion known, but with approximately an order of magnitude fewer stars. Deeper follow-up imaging confirms this object has an old and metal-poor stellar population and is {approx} 100 kpc away. We roughlymore » estimate M{sub V} = -6.75 and r{sub 1/2} = 250 pc for this dwarf. Its luminosity is several times fainter than the faintest known Milky Way dwarfs. However, its physical size is typical for dSphs. Even though its absolute magnitude and size are presently quite uncertain, Ursa Major is likely the lowest luminosity and lowest surface brightness galaxy yet known.« less

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"Neilsen, Eric"

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