CIMA Setup and Observing Cookbook for ALFA
Prepared by the E-ALFA Drift Group     21 Sep 2004
Disclaimer: CIMA is changing; this works today but may not
tomorrow! Note that there are some redundancies in the current version and some features
are not yet implemented. This and CIMA are works in progress.
- ALFA cover must have been removed. ALFA is covered during radar runs, so take a look at the
telescope schedule beforehand. For instance, if it looks like ALFA had to be covered the day before your
observations, make sure that time is allocated to remove the cover before your run starts
(this can be done during maintenance or system check time). In any case, it is a good idea to double
check with the telescope operator.
- If you need to rotate the feed, the motor must be switched on (this is also done on the platform!).
If the power have failed on the platform, the "reset button" on the motor may have to
be pushed; if someone switches the motor on, he/she probably should hit the reset button
too, before coming down, just in case. If you have any doubts, look for ALFA rotation using
the dome video monitors (you should be able to see it move). Also, the operator may need
to turn on ALFA in software from the control room. (Someday, all this will be automated.)
- Log into OBSERVER2 as "dtusr" (password taped to the monitor).
- Start CIMA by clicking with the right button of the mouse on the background, and choosing
"cima online GUI" from the menu. Several windows will pop up:
Identify New User (orange),
AO Observer Display (black),
CIMA Observer's Interface (orange), and a couple of others (white background,
with red or blue writing) that you will not use. CIMA Observer's Interface
is the main window and should always be open. The buttons therein open new windows, which allow you
to control the telescope. These windows will be indicated with orange fonts
in this document; all the other ones will be red.
- Identify New User
- Observer(s). This entry is placed in the FITS header for each record.
It is also used in the return address in case, during your observations, you decide to email
the RFI or CIMA groups with a comment (using the E-mail Comment button).
- Proposal Number. This is important. Your settings and log files will be saved (if you decide to do so)
in the corresponding project directory, /share/obs4/usr/aNNNN/ -- where aNNNN is the Proposal Number
that you entered.
- Select "Line" observing mode.
- Choose Receiver
Select "ALFA", click on "Select Receiver Now", and make sure that ALFA shows up in the AOSTATUS
monitor (on your top-left side). Dismiss the Choose Receiver window.
- Choose "Load/Save State" from the CIMA Observer's Interface and load
your setup file "***.gui" from the widget that appears. For the E-ALFA Drift observations we used
"a1946syncCal.gui" (for cals fired at regular intervals throughout each scan) or "a1946CalEnd.gui"
(for cals fired only at the end of each scan).
This will set most of the parameters, but you must still apply the configuration
in each of the widgets described below.
- Pointing Control
- Enter the "ALFA Rotation Angle" and hit "Send". You can actually see if ALFA is rotating by looking
at the TV camera in the control room (ask the telescope operator to show the appropriate camera).
The blue number next to the "Send" button should change to your entry once ALFA reaches that position.
For drifts at 180 deg azimuth, the correct angle is thought to be 19 deg.
At azimuth 90 deg, it is thought to be -14 deg.
- If you have a source list, you can load it using the "Catalog" button (on the top left).
You can also type the coordinates of the source (RA and Dec); if you do so, select also the correct
epoch (B1950 or J2000).
- After selecting the source (from the catalog, or typing in the coordinates), hit the "Point" button
to start moving the telescope.
- Receiver IF/LO Control
- Select "New Improved IFLO Setup". This will open the New Improved IFLO Control
- New Improved IFLO Control
- Both "Choose Receiver" and "IFLO Path" should be set to ALFA. Note that this is another place where
you can select the receiver (several functions are redundant).
- Enter the desired central frequency and bandwidth.
- Hit "Apply This Setup".
- Dismiss Receiver IF/LO Control and
New Improved IFLO Control windows.
- Backend Control
- "WAPP as Spectral Line Machine" should be selected (default).
- Check that all four WAPPs are enabled (green) and click on the corresponding square if any are not.
- Hit the "ALFA Backend Control" button. This will open the WAPP ALFA window.
- WAPP ALFA
- Choose a configuration from the pull-down menu (click on the displayed configuration [in red]
with the left button of the mouse). This should be loaded with your setup file, so you just need to check
if it is ok. For the E-ALFA Drift runs we used "2chan, 3-level auto."
- Choose a Cal (nocal, or hcal). The number of seconds for its duration is only relevant if you choose to
test the cal by pressing the "Start Cal" button.
- Choose (check) the integration time (i.e., how often the data are written to file).
- Hit "Configure WAPP ALFA" to apply your setup.
- Adjust power, and look at the numbers on the Backend Control window:
1+/- 0.2 is ok. If the numbers are zeros (or close to zeros), probably the ALFA amplifiers have
not been turned on. If this is the case, you can ask the telescope operator to turn them on
for you, or you can do it yourself by typing "/home/aoui/bin/alfaon" on an xterm (FYI:
"/home/aoui/bin/alfasafe" turns the ALFA amplifiers off).
If the power is now back, but the numbers look wrong, try adjusting the power a few times.
- Make sure that the data go to a properly named FITS file (wapp.yyyymmdd.aNNNN.0000.fits).
If not, hit "New FITS file".
- The bottom part of the window is the "Monitor Control". Do not worry about it (it is meant to
display the signal from one beam and one polarization at a time on the monitors sitting on the
top shelf of the wall to your right, in the control room). Just make sure that the control
is set to "Remote" and not to "Local".
- Dismiss both the Backend Control and the WAPP ALFA
- Spectral Line Observing
- Choose your observing mode from the "Mode" pull-down menu. Set the relevant parameters, and
- As an example, the E-ALFA Drift group used the "Fixed Azimuth Drift" mode.
In this mode, the name of the drift and the starting RA are taken from
the Pointing Control window. The drift were done at 180 deg azimuth
and the observing mode has beeen tested in this configuration only.
For such observations:
- Make sure that the starting RA is sufficiently later than current LST so
that the telescope can be in position before that RA drifts into the beam.
Hit "Observe" and make sure that the slew time is less than the wait time displayed
in the AO Observer Display.
If not, hit "Abort" and set a slightly later RA.
- Hit "Observe" again while the telescope is in position and waiting
for the chosen RA to drift into the beam.
- After the scan starts, you can type in the name, RA and Dec of the start of the next drift
in the Pointing Control window and its duration in the
Spectral Line Observing window, as long as you do not hit "Point"
nor "Observe" until the current scan has finished.
- Exit normally
- When you are done, select Exit normally to exit CIMA. There is no
need to hit the "Move Data" button on the Spectral Line Observing
window if you were using the WAPP correlator.
- Saving a setup file
You can save your entire setup, or parts of it, by opening the Load/Save State
window, and selecting the configurations that you want to save. When you are done, hit "Save Selected
Choices". Enter a file name (for instance: aNNNN_fixAZ), and a descriptive comment (e.g., ALFALFA
fixed AZ drift standard mode). A file aNNNN_fixAZ.gui will be written to your project directory
(/share/obs4/usr/aNNNN/). The next time that you observe you will be able to recover your saved setup
by opening the Load/Save State window, and selecting "Load a Saved State".
However, loading does not mean applying! You will have to open the windows mentioned above
and apply the corresponding setups.
- WAPP troubleshooting
Is WAPPDATA confused? On a few occasions, after hitting "Observe" to start the integration, we had a series
of warnings (on the AO Observer Display window): "WAPPDATA is confused".
If this happens, open the User Preferences window, and type
"socksend WAPPDATA FLUSH" on the "Send to GUI" line. Hit the "Send to GUI" button.
If the "WAPPDATA is confused" state persists, exit CIMA and start again,
this time choosing "Pulsar Observing" in the CIMA Observer's Interface.
Click on the "More" button, then on "Restart all WAPPs."
- FITS file size limits
There is a limit to the size of the FITS file (2 GB or so). It is a good idea to write the data (e.g.,
different drift scans) to separate FITS files. If you don't, and the data exceeds the limiting size,
another FITS will be created (you will get the message "FITS file is full, creating new"
on the AO Observer Display window). This can happen in the middle of a scan, leaving that scan incomplete and corrupting the new FITS file,
so it is essential to avoid it. If you run your observations as a series of "loops", you can set CIMA to
start a new FITS file every nloop. Note that at the moment, you lose 3 seconds of data each time you
close the FITS file and start a new one.
Mikael is working on a package for telescope monitoring and data display. Most of the features are
already available. These programs read the data that are being broadcasted to the FITS files, and not
the FITS files themselves. The screens are updated every 10 seconds.
On Dataview, click on the background and select from the menu:
You can open the same widgets by typing on an xterm:
- Quicklook Data Display -- launches the ALFA on-line display.
- Observers Monitor -- opens a widget that currently only gives the power levels.
- Array Rotation -- launches the ALFA motor control.
- Frontend Monitor -- launches the ALFA instrument monitor.
The program alfadatawin is currently only available on Linux machines. The other commands are available
on other machines, too.
- /home/aoui/alfa/alfadatawin &
- /home/aoui/alfa/alfaobswin &
- /home/aoui/alfa/alfamotorwin &
- /home/aoui/alfa/alfamonwin &
- If you are using the Dataview machine, with its two screens, in the control room, you can
control the display device by setting the DISPLAY environment before you launch the above.
- > setenv DISPLAY :0.1       send display to 2nd screen
- > setenv DISPLAY :0.0       sets display back to primary screen
- > setenv DISPLAY fusion01:0.0       sets display to remote screen
- In particular, use these displays to monitor the power levels. Notice that after hitting
"Observe" the CIMA monitor WAPP power levels do not update, whereas the monitoring windows
show the current levels.
- If you reset the WAPPs, you will have to exit and restart alfadatawin to get it to grab
the online data again.
- To log out of dataview at the end of the observing run, close the windows "politely" by hitting
exit in each display window before logging out. This will make sure that the processes terminate.
A handy (but evolving) checklist is here.
Page created and maintained by
Barbara Catinella and the members of the
Cornell ExtraGalactic Group
Last modified: Tue Sep 21 22:56:40 AST 2004