Observing Constraints and Classification Rules
General Observing Constraints
Every requested observation has multiple observing constraints. The observing constraints are:
- the allowable brightest lunar phase
- the allowable smallest moon-to-object angular separation
- the allowable maximum airmass
- the allowable maximum image size: 'Image Quality' measure as FWHM at observed wavelength and airmass
- the Turbulence category (TC) for SPHERE, MUSE, ERIS and VLTI instruments that use full-AO. This combines probability of realisation of seeing and coherence time.
- the allowable sky transparency
- the allowable maximum Precipitable Water Vapour (PWV) should be provided for all instruments. The default value is set to 30 mm and should be fine for all non-IR instruments. All instruments include PWV in the ETC calculations that can be used to evaluate the impact of different PWV values on data.
- the allowable twilight constraint that defines the earliest time in minutes with respect to the end of the evening astronomical twilight when the execution of the OB can be started (see the note below).
- the allowable absolute time window for the start of the observation (i.e. for time critical events, multi-epoch monitoring)
- the allowable local sidereal time range for the entire observation (e.g. for ADI observation)
The Observing Constraints are specified by the user at Phase 2 for each Observation Block. Since the execution conditions required by each programme are an important ingredient in the process of building up the Long Term Schedule of an observing semester, and thus determine which programmes can or cannot be scheduled, users are not allowed to specify at Phase 2 constraints that are more strict than those specified in the original proposal. Users can however relax the constraints during the submission of their Phase 2 material. The values in the OB constraint sets that are selected (and approved) during Phase 2 preparation (and review) cannot be changed later during the observing period.
Note about the twilight constraint: this observing constraint has been introduced to allow specifying start of observation with respect to the start of the night: e.g. to delay start of observations for faint targets until the sky gets darker, or allow starting observations for very bright targets already during the twilight. The original motivation for this constraint is related to sky brightness in near-IR that is affected by excitation of OH lines, and is not affected by other constraints (e.g. moon distance/phase). It does not apply to astronomical twilight at the end of the night (i.e. sunrise).
General Classification Rules
Quality Control of OBs executed in Service Mode will be based on the specified constraints in the OB for airmass, atmospheric transparency, image quality/seeing, moon constraints, twilight constraint, as well as Strehl ratio for Adaptive Optics mode observations (as requested). If all constraints are fullfilled the OB will get assigned Quality Control grade "A", while the "B" quality control is assigned if some constraint is up to 10% violated. The observations with quality control grades A or B are completed, while those with quality control grade "C" (out of constraints) will be re-scheduled and may be repeated. In exceptional cases an OB may get status completed with quality grade "D", meaning that it was executed out of constraints but will not be repeated.
Note: for most instruments the image quality constraint as defined in the OB is judged against the full width at half maximum (FWHM) of a point source in the resulting image (or spectral image). For the instruments where the image quality cannot be directly measured (AO, VLTI, fibre instrument), it is either not used for classification or is obtained from the wavefront sensor of the active optics of the telescope.
Additional Observing Constraints and Classification Rules for SPHERE
From P103, Users are required to use the Turbulence Categories box instead of the seeing as a constraint. Please see either the SPHERE User Manual or the News section for more information.
This should match what was requested in your Phase 1 proposal, which is the optical (V-band) seeing entered in the SPHERE Exposure Time Calculator when simulating your observations.
For observations in pupil-stabilized mode, it is strongly recommended that Local Sidereal Time (LST) intervals are defined within the OBs to ensure a proper coverage of rotation on the sky. When defining an LST interval, the length of that interval must exceed the total execution time for the OB itself. However, for ease of scheduling it is recommended to add an additional 20 minutes to this total duration. For OBs containing LST intervals, the LST constraint is considered to be mostly met is if the OB starts/ends within 20 minutes of the designated starting/ending point of the LST window. Of course OBs which are executed fully within the LST window constraint will be judged as having fully met that constraint.
As the performance of the SPHERE Extreme Adaptive Optics systems is still being characterized under a wide range of conditions, no guarantees will be provided on the resulting Strehl and/or contrast. Therefore for SPHERE, no Strehl or Contrast needs to be provided within the constraint set of service-mode observing blocks.