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Rapid, flexible, programmable access to world-class telescope facilities

Modern astronomical surveys can now deliver tens of thousands of new discoveries every night, alerted within minutes.  Yet many will require additional observations in order to understand the physical phenomena and maximize the scientific return.  Observatories providing this critical follow-up must become capable of responding on similar timescales and with a flexibility governed by the demands of the science.  

AEON will be a collection of world-class telescope facilities which can be accessed on demand, at the touch of a button.  At the heart of the network, LCO is joining forces with the NOIRLab CSDC and the SOAR 4.1m and Gemini 8m telescopes to build a network for the LSST era.   

Astronomers will be able to request observations from any participating facility using standardized, programmable interfaces, which will be supported by the TOM Toolkit.    Telescopes in the network have agreed to some or all of their time being available in highly flexible queue-scheduling, so that observations can be requested at any time, and conducted on timescales driven by the science goals rather than block nights assigned by a Time Allocation Committee.   The combined network will offer access to imaging and spectroscopic instruments on telescopes ranging from 0.4m to 8m in aperture, distributed across the world. Each facility retains control over the fraction of its time that is executed in AEON mode, and telescope nightly operations need not be fully robotic to participate.  

The network stands to become increasing powerful as new partner facilities of all apertures opt in, and we welcome the chance to work with other observatories.  If your facility is interested in getting involved, please get in touch - contact details are below. 

A technical description of AEON has been published in Street et al., 2020, SPIE: Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation, 1144925.

Open Observatory Control Software

LCO is making it's Observatory Control Software available as a stand-alone package that can be installed by any optical observatory. The observatory does not become part of the LCO Network, and remains independent, but the package include's LCO's unique scheduling software for other facilities to take advantage of for their own use. Naturally, this package is highly compatible with AEON, and the TOM Toolkit, and facilities taking advantage of this software can easily opt to participate with AEON if they wish.

More information about the Open Observatory Control System can be found here.

Video introduction to AEON created by A. Hopkinson and E. Gomez

Current status

The engineering and science teams from LCO and SOAR made it possible to request SOAR observations programmatically through the LCO observing interface. LCO has been scheduling SOAR observations in AEON mode since August of 2019. The observations are executed by SOAR staff on AEON nights.

LCO and Gemini collaborated to make a plug-in that allows Gemini observations to be made programmatically through the TOM Toolkit.

AEON in the News

Read more about AEON in Science Magazine.

Contact details

LCO Project Scientist: Rachel Street,

NOIRLab Project Scientist: Monica Soraisam,

SOAR Project Scientist: César Briceño,

Gemini Project Scientist: Bryan Miller,

Links to AEON partner pages: NOIRLab SOAR

AEON is a collaboration between LCO, SOAR, Gemini and the NOIRLab CSDC.  The AEON Team gratefully acknowledges funding from the NSF.