MuSCAT3 Transitioning

Important Notes on MuSCAT3 Transitioning into Operations

Update 4 Nov 2020: MuSCAT3 is released for science use.

Update 21 Sep 2020: The installation of Muscat 3 has started.

Update 17 Sep 2020: Installation will begin on 21 Sep 2020.

Update 22 Aug 2020: Installation is expected to start the week of Sept 14th 2020.

7 July 2020: First version of this page by Daniel Harbeck & Nikolaus Volgenau

Muscat3 at FTN before installation

Summary: MuSCAT3 will replace the Spectral optical imager at the LCO 2-meter telescope at Haleakala Observatory, also known as the Faulkes Telescope North (FTN). This document clarifies the planned transition steps and expected changes to the 2-meter imaging operations.

Transition timeline and FTN Availability

With the installation of MuSCAT3, the Spectral imager at FTN will be decommissioned. Preparing MuSCAT3 for routine science operations will progress in four phases: Installation, Engineering Commissioning, Science Validation, and Shared Risk Operations. The availability of the FTN telescope and its instrumentation will vary in each of the phases.

The duration of each phase of the MuSCAT3 transition is subject to change. If MuSCAT3 performs as expected, the phases may be shortened. If logistical complications arise from the COVID-19 pandemic, the phases may be lengthened.

Phase 1: Decommissioning of Spectral and installation of MuSCAT3

The MuSCAT3 installation is anticipated to start during the week of September 14th 2020. The actual start date will be communicated when more information is available.

The first phase involves removing the Spectral imager from the telescope, installing the MuSCAT3 instrument and its infrastructure, establishing safe operations of the telescope, and aligning the four channels of MuSCAT3. We plan on a one week period with significant impact on FTN operations, during which the telescope will be nonoperational or reserved for MuSCAT hands-on activities.

As soon as safe telescope operations can be guaranteed during the installation phase, FTN will be released for science operations with the FLOYDS spectrograph only. Since the alignment of MuSCAT3's four cameras will require a hands-on effort at the start of each night, the most significant impact on FTN’s availability will be at the first half of each night.

Phase 2: Engineering Commissioning

Engineering Commissioning will establish and debug basic operations of the instrument, including the observation request submission, execution, and data flow. The duration of this phase will be one week, plus a one week contingency. FTN will be available for science operations with the FLOYDS spectrograph only. Access to MuSCAT3 will be limited to the MuSCAT engineering team, and significant interruptions of telescope operations for MuSCAT3 testing are expected.

If significant issues with the MuSCAT instrument are revealed during engineering commissioning, the Spectral camera will be reinstalled until the issues can be corrected.

Phase 3: Science Validation

During the Science Validation phase, a team of LCO and Astrobiology Center / University of Tokyo scientists will vet MuSCAT3 as a scientifically viable and robust facility instrument that can provide publishable data. This phase will start as soon as possible after engineering commissioning (with some likely overlap of those phases) and will last for about four weeks. During the science validation time, the FLOYDS spectrograph on FTN will be available for science operations, but MuSCAT3 will not. However, MuSCAT3 observations can be granted to critical ongoing monitoring and rapid response programs with the approval of the LCO director. PIs must request access for their ongoing programs by contacting

MuSCAT3 science validation observations will be organized and submitted by the MuSCAT science validation team. Data emerging from those observations will be swiftly released to the entire LCO community upon passing a quality validation. However, members of the MuSCAT3 engineering and science validation teams have the right of co-authorship on publications originating from those data.

Phase 4: Start of Science Operations

Following successful science validation, MuSCAT3 will be released to all LCO users.

FTN will operate with both MuSCAT3 and the FLOYDS spectrograph. Because MuSCAT3 is a new instrument, users are expected to communicate issues with their data to

Implications of Spectral to MuSCAT3 transition

  • LCO users should expect an interruption of approximately six weeks to 2-meter imaging in the Northern hemisphere.
  • MuSCAT3 will replace the Spectral imager at FTN. Although a clone instrument, MuSCAT4, is planned for the LCO 2-meter telescope in Australia, there will be an asymmetry in the LCO 2 meter imaging instrumentation until MuSCAT4 can be built and installed. Observing hours are allocated to science proposals by instrument type, not by telescope class. Whether a request is submitted through the Observation Portal or through the portal API, it is the responsibility of the PI to submit observations to either Spectral in the South or MuSCAT3 in the North.
  • Approved proposals for the 2020B semester that have not identified a preference between Spectral and MuSCAT3 will have their 2-meter imaging hours evenly split between the instruments. If this 50-50 split is inappropriate for a proposal’s science goals, it is the responsibility of the PI to alert that the split should be modified.
  • The MuSCAT3 hours allocated to proposals will be prorated depending on when in the semester MuSCAT3 becomes available for science observations.
  • For future semesters, until MuSCAT4 is available, PIs should state a preferred split between MuSCAT3 and Spectral hours (i.e. Northern and Southern hemisphere imaging, respectively) in their proposals.
  • Requests for Spectral imager observations of northern targets will become unschedulable when Spectral at FTN is decommissioned. Users should cancel such observation requests.