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GALFACTS Consortium

GALFACTS Consortium

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Instructions for Remote Observing (**Updated for N2**)

Last updated 3590 days ago by Russ Taylor

Remote A2130 Observing  (Commensal Observing with TOGS2)

Important: The project had been numbered as a2772 from now onwards. Please look up a2772 time slots on the Telescope Schedule to determine when the observations begin. However during sign in into CIMA continue using a2130 since the post processing scripts have been setup that way.          

 1.0 Before Observing 

Important: The password for dtusr changes every Monday now. Please call in to get the new password.

 Note: commands in courier font are (mostly) Unix commands. Text in this font is mainly steps that are done inside the CIMA GUI - usually means clicking a button instead of typing anything.

1.1  Set up a vnc Connection

Linux version

Log onto Arecibo:

ssh -X -l username

Then log onto the machine dataview:

            ssh -X dataview

On dataview, start the VNC server:

            vncserver -geometry 1280x1024

You may need to set a password for this session. Don’t use the same one as your usual login. Next, from an xterm on your system, type:

            vncviewer -shared -via dataview:N

where N is the number of the server provided to you on the dataview window (eg Enter the passwords when prompted.

Mac OS-X Version

The instructions below assume that you already have “Chicken of the VNC” viewer installed on your machine.

From an xterm on the Mac, log onto Arecibo: either, a) For users of Mac OS-X 10.4 (Tiger), type;

     ssh -Y -l username

or, b) For users of Mac OS-X 10.3 (Panther), type;

     ssh -X -l username

Then log onto the machine dataview:

     ssh -X dataview

On dataview, start the VNC server:

     vncserver -geometry 1270x850

NOTE: You may be prompted to set a password for the session at this point (e.g. when you start VNC for the first time.) DON’T use the same password as your usual login.

(Write down the “port” number, N where the VNC server is opened, e.g. “dataview:4”; “4” here is the port number.)

Open another xterm on your Mac desktop, and in this type:

ssh -f -L 590N:dataview:590N sleep 14400

(N in the above instruction is the port number where VNC server was opened.)

Enter your own password

Find the “Chicken of the VNC” icon on the MAC. Open it with



VNC password

(If other project members are expected to monitor this session using VNC, check the box saying “Allow other clients to connect”.)

Continuing in your VNC Window

At this point you should have a vncviewer screen containing one xterm. Open four more xterm windows in the vncviewer screen. In order to let others in the GALFACTS or TOGS2 teams see what’s going on, you need to provide them the value of N, and the VNC password. Send an email to anyone in the TOGS2 or GALFACTS group who wish to join you, so that they can log onto your VNC session.

In one of the xterms, type aostatus. A window should appear that shows a great deal of information about the telescope, such as where it is pointing, frequency setting, receiver, etc. This is a useful tool for making sure the telescope is doing what it should. Minimize windows as needed, but keep of track of where you put them!!

1.2     What if vncviewer doesn’t work?

If you have problems with vncviewer, just open 5 xterms on remote. Make sure your display settings are set up so that graphics can appear on your screen.


1.3         Call the telescope operator

About 15 minutes before your allotted time, call the AO control room at 787-878-2612, extension 211, and talk to the telescope operator. Ensure that ALFA is uncovered and that the amplifiers are on, and ask nicely if he can move the telescope to AZ=180 or 540 (360, NOT 0, for Southern Scans!!!), ZA=10, and put ALFA into position if it is not already there. Also be sure to get the password for the machine observer2, since you will need that to log in to start the observations. For nights where A2130 immediately follows TOGS (say commensal with A2048 on schedule), remind the telescope operator to stop GALSPECT once TOGS is complete, because you will need to start GALSPECT soon afterwards!!


2  Starting the Observation

Getting things going

type aostatus & in an xterm to see the status of the telescope.

In one vncviewer xterm window, log onto observer2 as dtusr, using the password you get from the operator (Important: The password for dtusr changes every Monday now. Please call in to get the new password. )


ssh -l dtusr observer2

Now start CIMA (after the telescope has moved close to 180 AZ (or 540,900 etc.); anything greater than equal to 180 degrees should do):

cima - -X

When asked to select which of the available versions of CIMA you want to use, click “Stable (Default) (Ver 3.3.02 2012-04-05 19:32)”. This should open a CIMA observing session setup window, in which you need to enter your experiment number (a2130), name (24 chars max), and phone number, and then wait for the TO to approve your session. Once you get a confirmation message, you can continue by following these steps:

Project number: Confirm it says a2130

Observer: Confirm your name

Select Pulsar observing mode

Select Accept

CIMA will then start bringing up icons and windows, some of which require action and some that are for informational purposes. A chat window will open up, through which you can communicate with the TO. One window requiring immediate action is the Choose Receiver window. If ALFA is already in place, you can just Dismiss this window. Otherwise, select ALFA, and hit Accept.

The next thing to do is to execute the survey_8_part1.cmd script OR surveypluscals_8_part1.cmd that initializes the TOGS2 Smart Frequency Switching:

CIMA Main Menu, under "Observing modes":

select Command File Observing

CIMA Command File Observing window :

select Load -> survey_8_part1.cmd (single-click survey_8_part1.cmd in popup) [use surveypluscals_8_part1.cmd if this is a CAL run]



While part1 is executing, get GALSPECT ready to take data. In a second vncviewer xterm, log onto dataview as guest:

ssh -l guest dataview  (and enter password, naic305m)

ssh -i galfa key galfa@galfa1 – you will now be logged on to the computer controlling the GALFA-HI spectrometer.

ps – check for running gdiag processes: shouldn’t be any. If there are, find out why!

Perhaps the project before you was running GALSPECT and forgot to turn it off. This does happen on occasion with TOGS, so it might be necessary to notify the telescope operator (see section 1.2 above). Use kill -9 to get rid of these gdiag processes.

/var/diag – some numbers and sequencing text will appear

/var/levels a2124 – check that rms levels are about 10. If they don’t look right, you can run this script again. On very rare occasions you might get a message saying LO2: Set failed, got back: ERROR setting freq. If this happens, you need to follow the instructions below.

/var/a2124 – this starts GALSPECT taking data. You should see numbers appear every 5 seconds: 5s, 10s, 15s, etc. You may also see some overflow message periodically. As long as these don’t appear every second in all 7 beams, things should be OK.

In your third vncviewer xterm, again log on as guest on dataview and type vncviewer galfa1 to monitor HI line data in real time (note do this only after data taking starts on galspect). With your cursor in the screen that pops up, you can type ‘a’ to toggle between displays, and ‘h’ to zoom in/out to look at the bandpass on different scales. The best thing to do is hit ‘a’ twice and then ‘h’ once. Minimize the GALPSECT windows and put away somewhere safe.

Start the Main observing script

By now, we hope the telescope has made it to the starting source point (should be called some name), and the survey_8_part1 script should soon be finished, (if it isn’t already). Once the part1 script finishes, it’s time to run the part2 script. NOTE that there are two alternative scripts depending whether you are running (a) just the GALFACTS main survey, OR (b) the main survey plus the set of calibrator sources.

If it is case (a), then:

CIMA Command File Observing window :

Load -> survey_8_part2.cmd


However, for case (b) proceed as follows;

CIMA Command File Observing window :

Load -> surveypluscals_8_part2.cmd


Monitoring the VNC Session from Elsewhere

Someone in the GALFACTS group who’s been given the server number N and the password for the session can look in on your VNC session. Note that the person looking in can also control your VNC session, so don’t freak out if your cursor starts moving around.

If the person doing the monitoring is using a Linux machine, they should enter by typing (using Chris Salter as an example):

vncviewer -shared -via dataview:N

(N in the above instruction is the port number where VNC server was opened.)

Enter their own password

Enter the VNC password

If they have a Mac running OS-X, then in a terminal on their Mac they should type:

ssh -f -L 590N:dataview:590N sleep 14400

(N in the above instruction is the port number where VNC server was opened.)

Enter their own password

Find the “Chicken of the VNC” icon on the MAC. Open it with



VNC password

Check the box saying “Allow other clients to connect”.

3  Restarting Observations in case something goes wrong

In case the observations get aborted midway due to CIMA errors/power failures or a variety of other reasons, one should first call the telescope operator regarding that. He should be able to help out and in case of problem of a more serious nature the operator will call Arun or Phil. If the problem is resolved before the end of the observing time period it is desirable to start observing on the same track as was being observed prior to the occurence of the problem. This makes it easier to patch the missing segment for one track as opposed to having to patch 2 separate tracks. For one's convenience a file named restart.cmd has been created and should be available when user tries to load a command file. The observer will however need to open a terminal window and will need to edit this file to force observations onto a given track. This file sits in:


The line:

SMARTBASKET file=survey_8.track track=<track_no>

should be edited and <track_no> should be changed to the number for the track that the observations need to be forced onto. After making this change the observer should then load and run this file. This will ensure the observations will continue on the previously started track.

4  Finishing the Observation

When it’s time to quit,

1) IF pt2 script is NOT finished by the end of the time allotted, do this:

CIMA Command File Observing Window :

select Stop for clean stop (will wait until the end of a full basketweave) OR, select Abort to end in mid-scan (RECOMMENDED as you will be more popular with the next observer!)

2) Exit CIMA nicely:

CIMA Observers Interface: Exit CIMA -> Yes, I am done!

3) For the two xterms using galspect (/var/a2124 and vncviewer galfa1) hit CTRL-C and exit the xterms – do the one running vncviewer galfa1 FIRST! Exit the vncviewer screen by clicking the big X in the top-right corner. Then, on the window where you started the vncserver session, type

vncserver -kill :N

You’re all done!



A  Contact Information

Chris Salter:           787-878-2612 X 281 (W) 787-879-5754 (H),

Tapasi Ghosh:        787-878-2612 X 289 (W) 787-879-5754 (H);

Steven Gibson:       520-400-4314 (C) 270-904-2149 (H),

Mikael Lerner:        787-650-8692,

Ayesha Begum:      608-262-6777,

Snezana Stanimirovic:   608-890-1458,

Roberto Ricci:        +39 051 639 9425 (W),

Christian Smith:     403 220 5392 (W), 403 483 0122 (C),

Sukhpreet Guram:  403-400-4883,


For each TOGS2 (a2124) run there is a contact person on duty. To find out who to call in case of problems please check the ‘TOGS2 Contact Schedule’ in the Control Room (located in the GALFA folder).

B  Monitoring Observations

When in the control room, you can start the following aids to monitoring ALFA, etc. from the pull-down menu on the dataview machine. Be sure that the ”CIMA version” is set to that required. Alternatively, you can open the widgets by typing the following commands on an xterm:

alfamonwin & – brings up the ALFA instrument monitor window. This displays a lot of information on ALFA, including relevant voltages. All should be displayed in blue if within range. Red values signify “out of range”. (Note that some values always appear in red due to incorrect settings for allowable ranges.)

alfastatwin & – to check the general status of ALFA, including the rotation angle. Red values signify “out of range”. (Note that some values always appear in red due to incorrect settings for allowable ranges.)

alfamotorwin & – shows the ALFA rotation angle - a good check after this has been selected at the start of a day.

alfabeamwin & – shows approximate positions of each beam. This can set to RA, Dec. (Currently, the positions are not quite perfect, but still helpful.)

alfaobswin & – smaller window showing the power in dB for each beam. Red values signify “out of range”. (Note that some values always appear in red due to incorrect settings for allowable ranges.)