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The Messenger 147

The Messenger 147

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The Messenger is published by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe, in hardcopy and electronic form, four times a year: in March, June, September and December. ESO produces and distributes a wide variety of media ­connected to its activities. For further information, including postal subscription to The Messenger, contact the ESO education and Public Outreach Department at the following address: ESO Headquarters Karl-Schwarzschild-Straße 2 85748 Garching bei München Germany Phone +498932006-0 information@eso.org
The Messenger is published by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe, in hardcopy and electronic form, four times a year: in March, June, September and December. ESO produces and distributes a wide variety of media ­connected to its activities. For further information, including postal subscription to The Messenger, contact the ESO education and Public Outreach Department at the following address: ESO Headquarters Karl-Schwarzschild-Straße 2 85748 Garching bei München Germany Phone +498932006-0 information@eso.org

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Published by: European Southern Observatory on Mar 27, 2012
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The Messenger
No. 147 – March 2012
   P  r  o  g  r  e  s  s  o  n   M   U   S   E   S  e  a  r  c   h   f  o  r   i  n   t  e  r  m  e   d   i  a   t  e  -  m  a  s  s   b   l  a  c   k   h  o   l  e  s   T   h  e   G  a   i  a  -   E   S   O  p  u   b   l   i  c  s  p  e  c   t  r  o  s  c  o  p   i  c  s  u  r  v  e  y   T   h  e   M   A   S   S   I   V  s  u  r  v  e  y  o   f   t  e  e  n  a  g  e  g  a   l  a  x   i  e  s
The Messenger 147
– March 2012
EVALSO demonstration activities The recently completed EVALSO infra-
structure is the denitive step in over-
coming these limitations for the currentfacilities on Paranal, including the surveytelescopes and the second generationinstrumentation to become availablein the near future. EVALSO (for
EnablingVirtual Access to Latin-American South-ern Observatories
) is a consortium of nineorganisations partly funded by the Euro-pean Union under its seventh Framework Programme (FP7) with the goal of set-ting up a high-bandwidth communica-tions infrastructure between Europe andthe observatories of Paranal and Cerro Armazones, the latter operated by theRuhr-Universität Bochum. A descriptionof the project, the overall infrastructure,its technical implementation and the listof participants has been provided in aprevious article in
The Messenger 
(Filippi,2010), and further information is availableon the web
. As part of the FP7 project, EVALSO in-cluded a number of Joint Research Activities with the purpose of demon-
strating the scientic value of the new
infrastructure. One of these activitiesexploited the capabilities of EVALSO toestablish a virtual presence system atthe observatory of Cerro Armazones,while the other two tested the data trans-fer capabilities between Paranal andEurope and the potential of the new link for remotely performing observations
from a European institute with sufcient
bandwidth. The VISTA/VIRCAM data stream, averag-ing approximately 50 GB (compressed)per night, was sent through the EVALSOlink for four months, with a measured,sustained Paranal–Garching transfer rateof 9 MB/s. This rate represents a tenfoldincrease in capacity over that availableuntil now, making possible the transfer of a typical full night of VIRCAM data (theinstrument currently dominating the datastream from Paranal) in less than twohours, and demonstrates the feasibility of transferring the entire Paranal data stream,including the VLT, the VLTI (VLT Interfer-ometer), VISTA and the VST, in less than24 hours (Romaniello et al., 2011). Giventhe currently available high bandwidth
Fernando Comerón
Jim Emerson
Konrad Kuijken
Stefano Zampieri
 Andrew Wright
Giorgio Filippi
Astronomy Unit, Queen Mary Universityof London, United Kingdom
Leiden Observatory, the Netherlands
 A substantial improvement in the con-nectivity between the Paranal Observa-tory and ESO Headquarters has beenrecently made with the completionof the FP7-funded EVALSO project andits integration into the operational infor-mation and communications technologyof the observatory. Here we describethe demonstration of capabilities, car-
ried out as the nal part of the project;
some expected applications in the
short term; and the possibilities that are
opened up by the availability of suchhigh-bandwidth communication links.
 Transferring data between Paranal andGarching The end-to-end operations model of the ESO facilities on Paranal takes placein a geographically distributed environ-ment, with different parts of the lifecycleof observing programmes taking placeeither in Garching or at the observatorysite. Most users of ESO facilities, eitherdirectly through the submission and exe-cution of observing programmes, orthrough the use of archive data, are al-ready familiar with different componentsof this model, which was initially imple-mented at the New Technology Tele-scope (NTT) in 1997, and extended to the Very Large Telescope (VLT) when itbegan operation in 1999. The model hasevolved substantially since then. The lat-est additions to the Paranal Observatory,the survey telescopes, VISTA and the VST, have been integrated into this modelsince they began regular operations, and
the Atacama Pathnder Experiment
(APEX) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/ submillimeter Array (ALMA) science oper-ations also share many of its features.Operation in such a distributed environ-ment involves the intercontinental transferof a wide variety of data, most notably(although certainly not only) the large vol-ume of science and calibration data pro-duced by the instruments each night. Thedata obtained are quickly controlled forquality and used in a sophisticated instru-ment health-check process, taking place
ofine in Garching, which ensures that
instruments are kept in optimal operatingcondition at all times. The immediateavailability of data through the ESOarchive, which is also physically locatedin Garching, currently enables authenti-cated users to download their proprietarydata as soon as the data are ingestedinto the archive, typically a few hours orless after acquisition. The successful implementation of thesefeatures requires the availability of suf-
cient bandwidth for the intercontinentaltransfer of the data stream. In the rst
ten years of VLT operations, the combi-nation of bandwidth costs and the fastgrowth of data production on Paranalrequired the transfer of data to Garchingto take place through physical media(disks), introducing a delay of one to twoweeks between the acquisition of thedata and their ingestion in the archive. This delay effectively decoupled the day-to-day operation of the observatoryfrom the detailed quality control processtaking place in Europe. A major break-through took place in 2008 with theimplementation of the transfer of the VLTdata stream over the internet (Zampieriet al., 2009), which reduced the timelag between acquisition and ingestioninto the archive to a few hours at most.Besides allowing end users to accesstheir data much faster, shortening the
operations duty cycle also brought signi
-cant improvements in the quality controlprocess. However, the available band-width was far from allowing remote near-real-time access to Paranal data, and
was not sufcient to handle the increase
in data production when VISTA, and morerecently the VST, began operations, andat the outset their data still needed to beshipped to Garching in disks. Telescopes and Instrumentation
High-speed Bandwidth between Europe and Paranal:EVALSO Demonstration Activities and Integration intoOperations
The Messenger 147
– March 2012
between ESO and the Cambridge Astro-nomical Survey Unit (CASU) in the UK,where full pipeline processing of all dataobtained with VIRCAM is routinely carriedout, this will open up the possibility of a
signicantly faster turnaround time in the
processing of VIRCAM data in Cambridge
in the future. The ow has been limited
until now by the time spent in the inter-continental transfer of the hard disks con-taining the data.
 The test conguration of EVALSO was
also intensively used during the com-missioning of OmegaCAM, as noted byKuijken (2011). The use of EVALSO onthe commissioning of this instrumentclearly illustrated some of the advantagesof the new high bandwidth capabilities.It allowed remotely located members of the commissioning team to participatein the analysis of the observations shortlyafter they were obtained, on nearly thesame timescale as the commissioningteam working at Paranal, which, giventhe very high data volumes, would havebeen impossible without EVALSO. TheEVALSO link has also been used in its
test conguration to support the backendof the OmegaCAM data ow, making the
data obtained with this instrument availa-ble for detailed quality control and healthchecking in Garching on the day follow-ing the night when the observations wereobtained. Tests on the feasibility of EVALSO to sup-port VLT observations in remote modewere also successfully carried out in Mayand June 2011. Most of the tests wereconducted from Garching using a Linuxlaptop equipped with a user installationof the Phase 2 Proposal Preparation(P2PP) tool, as well as standard softwarefor astronomical data analysis, includingIRAF and the Skycat tool. One set of tests was carried out by a user located atthe Vatican Observatory in Italy, to verifythe feasibility from other locations inEurope connected to their correspondingNational Research and Education Net-works (NREN). The test observations consisted of theexecution on Paranal of ObservingBlocks (OBs) prepared by the user whilekeeping a direct voice channel toexchange information between the userand Paranal Science Operations staff.Both raw and pipeline-processed datareaching a staging area in Garching wereretrieved by the user via ftp, and, follow-ing a quick analysis of the pipeline-
processed data, the OBs were modied
and resubmitted for execution. This wasintended to reproduce the experienceof a future remote user interacting withthe observatory mainly through the sub-mission of OBs, and being able to modifythem in reaction to the results just ob-tained in the preceding observation. Thanks to the availability of the EVALSO
link the observing efciency approached
that of a visiting astronomer carryingout a similar programme from the controlroom at the observatory, although theresults also highlighted the need for addi-tional tools and upgrades of existingones, as well as other changes in the VLT
operations model, to efciently enable a
possible remote observing mode by reg-ular users of ESO facilities in the future.Integration of EVALSO into operations
Following the successful verication of 
the new capabilities offered by theEVALSO infrastructure, ESO proceededtowards integrating it into the operationsnetwork of the observatory, which wascompleted in mid-December 2011 and isexpected to become fully functional inmid-February 2012. The link from Santi-ago to Garching is now handled by dual VPN tunnels, one over a link supplied bya commercial provider, and the other byREUNA/RedClara, the Chilean NREN thatis one of the EVALSO partners (see Fig-ure 1 of Filippi [2010] for more detail). The
passing of trafc over the links is cong
-ured using policy-based routing andaccess control lists to determine the path
to be taken for each trafc type, with sci
entic data regularly taking the REUNA/ RedClara link. The same conguration is
applied at Paranal, with the EVALSO link being used for the transfer of EVALSOdata. The functionality of the EVALSO/REUNA 
link has also been veried by the transferto Garching of scientic data obtainedfrom La Silla, which has worked awlessly
since mid-January 2012. The Paranaltransfer through the EVALSO link will startoperating regularly in mid-February 2012,with the whole of the VLT/VLTI datastream and all the VST calibration framesbeing routed through it. VISTA and therest of the VST data stream will be addedshortly after, following some optimisationto be done on the science data transfersoftware (Zampieri et al., 2009). The data transfer capabilities offered
by EVALSO are already sufcient to sig
nicantly improve end-to-end operations
by ensuring that the current backendoperations procedures applied to the VLT/VLTI data stream thus far can beextended to the entire data stream fromall the facilities on Paranal, includingthe full set of VLT and VLTI second gen-eration instruments as they becomeoperational. The performance is expectedto further improve through the optimisa-tion of the data transfer software and theexpanded capabilities of the transoce-anic link provided by the upgrades of  ALICE2. This research infrastructure wascreated with EU support in 2003 forthe establishment of high-capacity inter-connectivity within South America andtransatlantic connection to EuropeanNational Research Networks. The highbandwidth connectivity with the observa-tory provided by EVALSO will in thisway open new possibilities, such as a vir-tual presence at the observatory anda possible implementation of additionalobserving modes in future VLT operations.
ReferencesFilippi, G. 2010, The Messenger, 142, 2Kuijken, K. 2011, The Messenger, 146, 8Romaniello, M. et al. 2011, SPIE, 7737, 53Zampieri, S. et al. 2009, ASP Conf. Ser., 411, 540Links
EVALSO web page: http://www.evalso.eu

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