Observing with a Network

Las Cumbres operates 18 robotic telescopes spread around the world at six separate sites as a single observatory. This means that users submit requests for observations to a central automated scheduling program, which then calculates the optimized sequence of tasks for every telescope during each local night. This unique scheduling system runs in real-time, meaning that observations can be submitted at short notice but conducted over a range of timescales - custom-made for time domain science.

The telescopes are organized in 3 sub-networks according to telescope aperture: the 2.0m, 1.0m and 0.4m networks. (Note that Open-Access time is not available on the 0.4ms). As far as possible, all telescopes of a given aperture class have the same instruments and filters available, including both imagers and spectrographs. This gives the scheduler the maximum flexibility to allocate an observation to any appropriate telescope of that aperture class. By default no restrictions are placed on which telescope conducts your observation - the scheduler assigns a suitable telescope dynamically, though it is possible for users to restrict this choice if they wish.  The advantage of this is that it gives the observation the best chance of execution; if one site suffers poor weather, the observation will be automatically re-assigned to another site, if possible.

Each of our sites consists of between 1-5 telescopes, making it possible to observe the same target simultaneously from multiple facilities. All instruments, filters and grisms are available all of the time, and the scheduler can switch between them automatically in a matter of seconds. The geographic distribution of our sites is designed to enable observations of any visible target at any time and/or for extended periods.

Scheduling Observations

Observation requests can be submitted in two ways.We offer an online observe portal, which enables users to manually configure their requests, assisted by a number of planning tools. Larger scale programs may prefer to submit requests programmatically via our API, and our team maintains a Developer's Site with detailed information on how to do this. The API also offers more control over the configuration of observation requests, e.g., defocus options.

Unlike other observatories scheduled classically or through a queue, LCO network users submit requests for observations at any time during the semester. It is important to understand that, in order to allow users to request observations at any time, the LCO scheduler re-calculates the optimum schedule for the whole network several times an hour.Sometimes this means that an observation which had been scheduled on one telescope is re-scheduled on another. It can also mean that a site which was previous scheduled is now suffering poor weather, and the observations scheduled there need to be re-assigned. For this reason, the scheduling of an individual observation varies as a function of time until either the observation is completed, or the window for its execution expires. Upon completion, the time used for the observation (including overheads) is decremented from the projects allocation.

Monitoring Observations

The observe portal provides detailed feedback on the progress of every observation request, including where in the network the request can be executed from, the conditions at those site(s) during the requested window of the observation, and what resource the scheduler has allocated to the task.The observe portal can be configured to notify users by email once their observations are executed.

There are also options to submit programmatic queries regarding the status of your observation requests. Our Developer's Site explains in detail how to make use of these end points.

Getting Your Data

LCO operates data reduction pipelines which remove each instrumental signature to deliver preprocessed data.  For imaging cameras, this pipeline also produces an aperture photometry catalog for each frame, while the spectroscopic pipeline produces a wavelength-calibrated extracted spectrum.The imaging pipeline produces two data products on different timescales.   Quicklook images are processed with library calibration frames and made available as the data are received at our headquarters in Santa Barbara, whereas reduced frames use the best final calibration frames for the night, and are usually available within 24hrs of shutter close. More information on our data products and the software used to produce them is available on our documentation pages.

All LCO data are accessed via our data archive. Here you can download all reduced data products, as well as the raw data.  By logging in, you will find you have access to data from  your own proposals, as well as public-access data from our education programs and any existing data that is out of the proprietary period (12 months).


We provide extensive documentation to help you design and execute your observing program. If you have questions about LCO or your program, our online help pages and Getting Started guide are your first port of call. But if this doesn't provide all the answers, or you have a suggestion to make, please contact our science support team at

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Information on what LCO can do.
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