17 Mar 2020
The global COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our global network. All LCO employees have been asked to practice social distancing, and those who are able to work from home are doing so. The distancing has curbed our efficiency, but the well-being of our employees is paramount.
The National OIR Lab has decided to suspend operations at CTIO and close all facilities, including our robotic telescopes, by the end of this week. We are taking steps to shut down our telescopes in an orderly manner, so that we can bring them online again quickly when CTIO operations resume.
All trips by LCO personnel to service equipment at our sites have been postponed. In the short term, that means that the NRES unit at McDonald Observatory, which was scheduled to be repaired next week, will remain unavailable for science observations.
In non-COVID-19 news, the call for proposals for the 2020B semester has been posted. This call is for scientists at institutions without guarantees of network time (UC Santa Barbara, U Colorado, IPAC at Caltech, IAC) as well as LCO alumni and ex-TAC members. Institutions in LCO's Science Collaboration that have guaranteed time on the Network have their own time allocation procedures.
LCO has recently been awarded grants to support two major initiatives. In February, the Simons Foundation announced that it would provide support for LCO's education program until 2022. And just last week, the Heising-Simons Foundation accepted our proposal to develop an open source observatory control system (OCS). The OCS development will include features that benefit all LCO users.
We hope that you are weathering the COVID-19 storm. Stay safe.