User's Guide to the Nickel Remote Operations

Table of Contents


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Weather limits are the same when operating remotely as they are when operating the Nickel telescope locally. The remote observer must have a clear understanding that the weather is adequate for observing. If there is any doubt, the dome must be closed to protect the telescope and instrumentation. The Lick online weather resources and web cameras are essential tools for understanding the local weather conditions.

Prior to first opening the Nickel dome in the evening, the remote observer must do the following:

  1. Enter current Observer Contact Info into the Remote Observers GUI and click Send.
  2. Call the 3-m Telescope Technician (TT) to discuss weather conditions and confirm contact information. If weather conditions are OK, the TT will enable dome opening via sofware. This permission should be reflected in the Remote Observers GUI. Due to limited staff on Mt. Hamilton, it can sometimes be difficult to contact a TT. Below are the telephone numbers you should try (in this order)
    • Shane Telescope Control Room: 408-238-0652
    • Shane Telescope Control Room: 408-238-0651
    • Shane Telescope Electronics Shop: 408-238-4267 (If noone answers, the call is forwarded to 408-238-0652)
    • Telescope Tech Cell Phone: 408-316-9946
    If you cannot contact a TT in a reasonable time frame, try contacting the on-call support astronomer. If all else fails, send an email to with the subject line 40" REMOTE OBSERVER REQUESTS TECH HELP and your contact information and a staff member will get back to you as soon as possible (please be patient).

Once the Nickel dome is open, the remote observer is responsible for monitoring the weather to ensure that conditions remain safe for telescope operation. In addition, there is a Remote Observers GUI with a "deadman" timer that must periodically be clicked when weather conditions are good and the dome is open. This is to ensure that the observer is present, being attentive, and able to operate the telescope control software. The deadman software will automatically close the dome if weather conditions deteriorate according to the weather limits page, regardless of what time remains on the timer. This backup safety feature is NOT a substitute for closing the dome when conditions are threatening (indeed, it is possible to have weather station readings that are within the weather limits, but have weather that is unacceptable for an open dome and safety of the telescope). If there is any doubt about weather conditions, consult with the 3-m telescope technician. The TT has final say on the weather and if they decide to close the 3-m dome, the Nickel dome must close as well.

If a Lick staff member contacts the remote observer asking them to close the dome (for any reason), please heed the request (as is true for local observing as well). Local Lick staff have override permission and can close the dome at any time if they deem it necessary to protect the telescope, regardless of what the observer is doing at moment.

Support Astronomers,
Last modified: Mar 18, 2015