Submitting the Schedule

by Justin Linford last modified Aug 21, 2020 by Meri Stanley

Pre-submission Checklist

Observers are encouraged to go through the following checklist to make sure their schedule is correct and will properly generate the control files.

1. Are the filename and the expcode in the Cover Information section correct?

2. In the Preferred Dynamic Constraints section:
    A. Are the required and optional antennas correctly identified?
    B. Is the minimum number of antennas correct?
    C. Are the observing bands correctly marked with the proper polarization codes?
    D. Are the weather constraints clearly specified?
    E. Are the date constraints clearly specified?
    F. If a certain cadence is desired, is that cadence clearly specified?
    G. Are any other necessary constraints clearly specified?

3. Are the entries in the Correlator Information section correct?

4. Are all coordinates for user-defined sources correct? (It is a horrible feeling to spend 8 hours of telescope time staring at a blank patch of sky.)

5. Are all of the necessary stations included in the station list(s)?

6. Are the pulse cal settings appropriate for the observations? Recall that spectral line observations should have pcal=’off’ to avoid corrupting the line of interest.

7. Are any necessary zoom windows properly defined in the Correlator Information section?

8. [For pulsar observations only] Are the ephemeris and bin configuration files correct?

9. [For phased VLA observations only] Are all necessary dummy scans, calibration scans, and pointing scans properly scheduled?

10. After running SCHED on the .key file:
    A. Does SCHED produce the control files and the summary file?
    B. Are the observing frequencies in the summary file what is expected?
    C. Were all scans successfully scheduled with at least 2 stations on source?
    D. Were all calibrator scans scheduled with the necessary time on source?
    E. Do the science targets have the necessary total on-source times?
    F. Is the total elapsed time for the schedule correct?

Schedule Submission

Once the observer has confirmed that the .key file is correct and complete, it should be submitted to the VLBA Schedulers at vlbiobs@nrao.edu. The Schedulers will reply with a confirmation that the .key file was received.

Observers doing pulsar observations should also submit their ephemeris (.polyco) and bin configuration (.binconfig) files to the VLBA Data Analysts using the same email as above. While it is not necessary to submit these files until after the observation has occurred, it is recommended to submit them as early as possible to avoid delays in correlating the observations.

After Submission

The VLBA Data Analysts may contact the observer with questions regarding the schedule. This is especially common when observers omit information from the Preferred Dynamic Constraints section. However, the Analysts will also contact observers with tips on getting the schedule observed sooner. For example, if one of the antennas that an observer marked as “required” is down for maintenance, the Analysts may ask if they can change that antenna to “optional” in order to schedule the observation that week.

Observers can check the status of their observation by looking at the current VLBA schedule. Dynamically scheduled observations are typically scheduled 24 hours in advance, except for weekend schedules which are usually made the Thursday before observing. Fixed date observations can be scheduled several months before the observation begins.