ING Banner
Home > Astronomy > Telescope Operator Notes > Working with ACAM

ACAM is a combined optical imager and low resolution spectrograph. In imaging mode is has a full field of view of 8.5 arcminutes in diameter and a pixel scale of 0.25 arcsecond/pixel using the AUXCAM detector. At sky PA = 0, North is right and East is up. It has two filter wheels which hold up to six filters each (thus 7 positions per wheel to allow for a clear aperture in each). Wheel 2 (the one closest to the detector)  also holds a VPH (Volume Phase Holographic) grating. This is a transmissive grating for spectroscopic mode. The grating (called V400) offers a spectral resolution of 450 with a 1 arcsend slit at 6000Å, a second higher resolution grating will be offered in the future. A slit slider at the back of the instrument (closest to the telescope, before the collimating optics) offers 7 different slit widths (0.5, 0.75, 1, 1.5, 2, 10 and 26 arcseconds) and can also hold up to two filters for narrow band imaging or calibration masks. The slits are provided by fixed width masks rather than by a movable slit jaw as is the case with ISIS. In standard operation at least one filter / mask position in the slider will be left empty. If both are in use then there is no clear aperture left for imaging with filters in the main filter wheels, though spectroscopy could still be carried out.

ACAM Observing Scripts: A new section has been added to the bottom of these notes on how to run JMCC's multdither and mcol scripts until they are finally released into the observing system. A new autoflat script is also available for testing, see the notes at the end of this page.

Acquisition Tool manual

ACAM Software Manual

CAGB Software manual

Filling the Cryostat
There is an automated LN2 filling system for ACAM (and for other instruments). On arrival at the telescope at the start of the night, check the display of the filling system in case of problems with previous fills. Initiate an immediate transfer of LN2, but NEVER within one hour of the previous fill (better not even within 2 hours of the last fill). This should be done early since it can take a long time to fill all the Cass cryostats if other instruments are also mounted, and the system also needs about 10 mins to warm up before removing it from Cass to prevent the tubes cracking. At the end of the night, simply reconnect the system and it should fill ACAM automatically after a 20-second countdown, without any input.
  • Zeroset Rot, AZ and ALT (NB: do NOT use target zerosets)
  • USER> FOCUS 97.95-98.0 (typical for 2017)
You must also make sure that light is being directed to ACAM:

TO@taurus> agacam

OR: goto the observers control GUI and click the ACAM button in the 'Mirror Control' section of the ACAM Observer tab or the A&G tab.


Telescope focus:
The telescope focus is measured by the observer. At the start of each night (maybe unless the seeing is realy bad) they measure the best telescope focus taking exposures at different focus positions of a standard star, preferably in the SlnR filter as all other focus offsets were measured relative to this. They usually use focusrun to do this. For spectroscopy, there is an automatic focus offset that is applied when the grism is deployed, so it is not necessary to check the focus in spectroscopic mode.

There is a script under development that estimates the best focus obtained from the mentioned focusrun. It is possible to use it from the data directory in iraf (e.g. /obsdata/whta/20170207) as follows:
ecl> !python /home/whtobs/focus/ r{first_image} -nima {number_of_images}
The optional parameter -nima gives you the chance to use only some of the focusrun images in case you want to abort it before it's completed or if you know the first image was not properly taken (i.e. you choose the first image to analyse and how many consecutive images you want to analyse)

Rotator centre and Calibrate Procedure:
These are not normally done with ACAM, rather with whichever instrument is mounted at Cass below ACAM (such as ISIS or LIRIS).


Use the standard autoguider for CASS with camera AG6. If not already running, start the autoguider software from UDASDEV2 (whtdas30/tebe),  with 'obssys', 'startobssys' and 'startag AG6'. No windowing is required. A DS9 display tool will be pop up as well as the TV Guider Control GUI. This GUI allows you to change exposure times, take fields and set the TV and Guider going. Images are piped directly to the display tool. Alternatively, this control panel can be ignored completely and all tasks done using AutoGSS.

At the start of the night check that the autoguider filter AG-CLEAR is in position, by looking at the mimic. This filter is suitable for optical observations, such as with ACAM. If the filter needs to be changed, type at the TO prompt:

TO@taurus> autofilt ag-clear

For a telescope focus position of 98.0, best autoguider focus is about 2200 (2017). This can be set from the TO prompt:

TO@taurus> autofocus 2200

NB:The autoguider focus and filter mechanisms can also be moved from the observer's GUI.

Note that the theta area between 70,000 and 102,000 is vignetted by the structure holding the ACAM fold flat. However in practice any permitted value of AGT can be used.

The field of view of the autoguider is 60 x 60 arcseconds. Changing radial / theta results in X / Y movements of the star on the autoguider as follows:

|60'x60' |
| + |
| ^ |
| radial | |
| | |
| v |
| - |
| theta |
| + <------> - |
| |

e.g. increasing AGR by 12,000 will move the star from the bottom to the top and increasing AGT by 6,000 will move the star from the far right to far left.

Observing: Imaging Acquisition

Simply gocat to an object in the TCS catalogue. At sky PA = 0 (the standard orientation), North is right and East is up on the ACAM detector. Apply any offset the observer requests (in X/Y or RA/DEC) and the target is acquired, so you can start guiding.

Note the observer's GUI will allow them to put multiple optical components in the beam (e.g. a filter in wheel 1, a filter in wheel 2 and a slit or filter in the slider!). Obviously we only want one filter in place, so it's a good idea to check on the mimic that everything is as it should be.

A focus offset, whose magnitude varies with the filter in use, is sent to the TCS when the filter wheel position is changed, just as with Prime focus imaging, for example. CHECK THAT THIS IS CORRECT! Especially after using ISIS just before.

Sometimes dithering is used between ACAM exposures. This can be done manually during the long readout: turn off guiding (F8 while in TCS USER), use the handset to make the required offset, then turn on guiding again with F9. Alternatively use the "multdither" script.

Observing: Spectroscopic Acquisition

See also AutoGSS use with ACAM Spec.

It is recommended to set an aperture offset so that the target will arrive very close to the centre of the slit when you move to a new target. This will make identification of the target easier and also prevent a large offset "losing" the guide star. The aperture offset was checked in 2017 and can be set with the aperture command:

USER> AP 0 -18 -18

Unlike with ISIS, there is no slit-reflection and no acquisition TV, however there is an Acquisition Tool which can be used by the TO (usually), SA (if they want to) or observer (if you show them how to use it), which speeds up acquisition considerably compared with the old method. The above document is extremely detailed but the basic acquisition sequence is described in Section 10.1.

To start the Acquisition Tool:

TO@taurus> acqtool &

In case the Acquisition Tool is unavailable, this is the procedure to follow (many of the steps are used with the Acquisition Tool too). First the observer takes an image to identify the target. This must be moved onto the slit using telescope offsets. The slit position will move slightly with telescope and mount position (flexure), but a 5 second exposure will be enough to show this. If you are observing multiple objects in the same part of the sky then flexure will be minimal and doing this once may be sufficient. If observing multiple objects at different elevations or rotator positions then this should be checked for each observation and the slit overlay adjusted if necessary.

Now take an acquisition image. Measure the position of the target to be observed (use the 'r' option in imexam if possible) and calculate the pixel offset between this and the slit centre. Divide by four to get the offset in arcseconds (0.25 arcsecond pixels!) and apply this using the TCS handset in XY mode.

Note you MUST have Instrument ACAM set in the TCS in order for the handset XY directions to be correct!
The above procedure may have to repeated to get close enough to the desired pixel. By then the target should be visible in a through-slit image (with no grism). For any further small adjustments to position, the guiding loop should be closed to prevent loss of acquisition during the process. The object in the slit should be visible with a longer exposure, e.g. 15s for a 20 mag object was found sufficient, however the right scaling in DS9 must be used. This procedure is considerably quicker than it sounds, about 2-3 mins if the target is not too faint. Objects as faint as 22.5 mag have been acquired.

Observing: Spectroscopic Calibration

The observer will usually do all the calibrations required, so this is just for information. To direct light from the calibration unit to ACAM the old small feed mirror is used. Either click on the ACAM Cal button (see ACAM Observer tab on the GUI) or type:

TO@taurus> acamcal

You can turn the calibration lamps on and off via the GUI or with the commands:

TO@taurus> complamps show
To show current status of the calibration lamps
TO@taurus> complamps off
Turn off all calibration lamps
TO@taurus> complamps CuNe
Turn on the Copper Neon lamp
TO@taurus> complamps CuAr
Turn on the Copper Argon lamp
TO@taurus> complamps CuNe+CuAr
Turn on the Copper Neon and the Copper Argon lamps
TO@taurus> complamps W
Turn on the white light lamp

Filter change

Unless you have previously obtained training in changing filters please do not attempt to change them! General instructions on filter handling and care can be found here. After any filter change the mechanisms for both filter wheels and the slit unit will be in an undefined state. You will need to initialise them via the ACAM Eng tab on the GUI or via the command line with the following command:

TO@taurus> acaminitall

Alternatively you can initialise each mechanism individually:

TO@taurus> acamwh1init
TO@taurus> acamwh2init
TO@taurus> acamslitinit

It is also essential that the filter database be updated.

ACAM Observing Scripts

We have 2 observing scripts for ACAM, which are currently being prepared for release into the observing system. Until then they can be run directly from /home/whtobs/acam/jmcc/stable/. The pre-release scripts need to be run with python (and the .py extension) as shown in the descriptions below.

multdither (See also the ACAM observing guide)
multdither is a script which does dithered observations of a field, with or without guiding, in a single filter. The dither pattern is a spiral pattern with 32 points. The step size between each point is defined by the user. The script handles the autoguiding and the offsets during CCD readout and introduces no overheads in standard observing (normal window, 1x1 binning). To run the pre-release version do the following:
  • cd /home/whtobs/acam/jmcc/stable/
  • python n_images exptime step_size auto_on/off "title"
  • e.g. python 10 100 5 auto_on "QUSg"
  • for 10 images of 100 sec of the target QUSg, with 5'' dither step sizes and autoguiding on.
  • The script can be aborted using "Ctrl+C"

mcol is a script that wraps around multrun (no dithering) and multdither (dithering) to do observations in multiple colours (filters). Mcol will also handle the autoguider if needed and filter changes etc. The script is run using observing blocks, where each block is the observations required for a given filter. To run the pre-release version do the following:
  • cd /home/whtobs/acam/jmcc/stable
  • python "name" on/off [step] "F1,N1,E1,auto_on/off" ... "Fn,Nn,En,on/off"

  • name: target name in quotes
    on/off: dithering on/off
    if dithering on, give step size in arcsec
    "F1,N1,E1,on/off": filt1, num_exps1, exp_time1, auto_on/off
    NOTE: Quotation marks are required around each observing block

  • e.g. python "QUSg" on 5 "V,10,300,auto_on" "B,5,100,auto_off"
  • This will do two blocks with 5'' dithering on. In V we have 10 images of 300 sec and autoguiding on, then in B, 5 images of 100 sec with autoguiding off.
  • The script can be aborted using "Ctrl+C"
NOTE: If either script is run without any arguments (e.g. python the resulting USAGE output will be *WRONG* for running these prelease versions. The USAGE output is defined for when the scripts are released to the observing system. These pre-release versions must be run as shown above. New instructions will follow once they have been released to the observing system.

Autoflat is an automated flat fielding script written (initially) for ACAM. Using the command given below it takes a list of filters, prioritises them and acquires the number of flats requested. If the sky is too bright/dark for a given filter it will skip that filter and continue to the next one. Once all flats have been taken or the sky level is out of range the script will end. A summary of the successful flat fields is printed at the end. After autoflat is fully commissioned for ACAM it will be made available for other imagers. To run autoflat for ACAM do the following:
  • Ask the OSA to acquire a blank field
  • Configure ACAM for observing mode (window, binning, rspeed). This is essential, autoflat uses saveccd and setccd to keep track of required CCD settings.
  • SYS> cd /home/whtobs/acam/jmcc/under_development/autoflat/
  • SYS> python camera num_flats_per_filt rspeed f1 f2 ... fn

  • camera: camera name (acam only for now)
    num_flats_per_filt: number of flats in each filter
    rspeed: CCD readout speed (this will most likely be removed in later versions)
    f1 f2 ... fn: filter names for filters 1, 2 .... n

  • e.g. python acam 5 fast SlnR SlnU SlnZ SlnI
  • To be sure the script then prompts you to confirm the instrument and camera are configured properly (window, binning etc).
  • Press ENTER to continue, or type 'q+ENTER' to quit and setup the camera etc
  • The script can be aborted using "Ctrl+C"
Autoflat aims to fulfil the criteria below:
  • MAX counts: 40,000
  • MIN counts: 20,000
  • TARGET counts: 30,000
  • MAX exptime: 120s
  • MIN exptime: 1s
The filters currently supported can be found here. Filters are prioritised first by bandwidth into broad (B) and narrow (N), then each group of B and N are prioritsed according to central wavelength. Red-to-blue in the afternoon and blue-to-red in the morning. If a new filter is to be added to the list contact JMCC.

I ask that people use this script as much as possible to speed up the commissioning process (especially on S/D nights). In the beginning it would be wise to acquire dome flats in the afternoon just in case something unforseen happens while testing. The script can be used to take the dome flats if the telescope is tracking. A dome flat script will also be made available soon. JMCC
Data Handling

You can write DVDs on WHTDRPC2 (in the control room) or WHTPC1 (in the terminal area). When you put a blank DVD in either machine it will be automatically recognised and you will be given the option to 'Create data DVD with K3b'. Select this, the software is very easy to use and needs no explanation. Spare DVDs can be found in the control room stationery cabinet.

Top | Back

Contact:  (Observing Support Assistants)
Last modified: 13 November 2017