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 X-SHOOTER
Image quality constraint
The reference value to be entered in the image quality constraint for point sources refers to the wavelength region 550-600nm (VIS arm). In the cases where the object is very red and the flux in the relevant spectral region is too low, the image quality is measured on the Guide Probe camera (operating at about 550nm). The same applies to the case of extended objects.
With the introduction of the Turbulence Categories, users are asked to use the Exposure Time Calculator (ETC) to evaluate how the choice of a given category will be reflected as Image Quality (IQ) in the 3 arms of the instrument. Given that, as mentioned above, the reference value to be entered in the IQ constraint refers to the wavelength region 550-600nm, the user must adopt the IQ estimated by the the ETC in the VIS arm. In the same vein the Turbulence Category to be specified in Phase 1 should be the one derived for the VIS arm.
In cases where the ETC returns turbulence categories and/or IQ values for the NIR and/or UVB arms, those must not be used in Phase 1/2.