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Role of a Duty Astronomer

Summary of duties

The primary responsibility of the Duty Astronomer is to ensure the safety of the Compact Array.

The duty astronomer should also be able to:

  • assist observers prepare observing schedules using the SCHED programme.
  • assist observers set up the Compact Array at the start of an observing run.
  • diagnose and attempt to solve problems that arise in the course of the observations. The Duty Astronomer is not expected to solve every problem and should know how to contact further support when necessary.
  • assist observers with initial analysis of their data. Duty astronomers are not expected to help observers with every stage of their data reduction but should be able to show observers how to transfer data into AIPS or MIRIAD and locate the appropriate data reduction manual.

The duty astronomer should be on site and contactable during their stay at Narrabri.

Once an observing run has started the Duty Astronomer is under no obligation to act as an observer although he/she may need to provide assistance if a problem occurs. During normal daytime working hours local staff should provide the front-line assistance.

On arrival at the Observatory

The Duty Astronomer should arrive at Narrabri in sufficient time to overlap with the previous Duty Astronomer and to interact with local staff. For regular visitors to Narrabri, DA should arrive 12 hours before the start of their duty. For DAs who are rusty (more than 9 months since last visit) should arrive at least 24 hours earlier. People who are required to be DA, and who need to develop these skills are expected visit Narrabri and allow a substantial period of overlap with another DA. Duty Astronomer duties normally start and end at 8:00 am local time on the first and last days rostered.

On arrival in Narrabri, the Duty Astronomer should:

  • check through the DA checklist.
  • understand the current state of the Array by
    • liaising with the out-going DA and reading their hand-over document,
    • checking the web ``Current Issues'' notes,
    • discussing issues with local staff and
    • checking the Control Room notice boards.
  • check you know who the on-call person is and ensure you understand their role.
  • check through the proposals relating to the observations for which the Duty Astronomer will be responsible and determine what is required for each proposal. Some observing techniques such as remote, mosaicing or pulsar observations may be unfamiliar in which case further consultation with local staff or observers may be necessary.

Remote observing

The Duty Astronomer should be notified in person prior to a remote observing run. Most remote observing runs are noted on the schedule in the control room and this should also be checked. During a remote observing run the duty astronomer should be contactable. However, in the event of a link failure the duty astronomer is not expected to take over the observing.

Emergency and semi-emergency situations

The on-call person, or some staff member should be notified at any time of cryogenics failures, drive failures, complete power loss or generator failure, air conditioning failure or equipment overtemperature, serious personal injury or fire.

These conditions have the potential to cause serious damage to the Array systems.

Fire and primary monitor alarms are triggers by many of these emergency situations. The alarms sound in the house of the on-call person (and then in the houses of all site residents, if the alarm is not answered). Do not disable this alarm until a staff member arrives.


Original: Jessica Chapman (29-May-1997)
Modified: Bob Sault (15-Mar-2005)