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TOM Toolkit


Target and Observation Manager software for powerful, programmable control of astronomical observing programs

Astronomical surveys are producing ever increasing catalogs of new discoveries at ever faster rates and astronomers have found it necessary to build database-driven systems to handle the flood of information on their targets, observations, and data products - Target and Observation Managers or TOMs.

TOM systems offer users a powerful way to display and interact with their own data through a browser or GUI.  These systems are rapidly becoming more powerful and are able to submit requests for observations directly to networked telescope facilities and harvest data products.  When coupled with the astronomer's own analysis software, these systems are capable of conducting entirely automated follow-up programs, including rapid response to new target alerts.  

Until now, building a TOM system has required specialist expertise in database and software development, restricting it to a subset of larger projects. 

The TOM Toolkit is an open-source software package which enables users to easily build a TOM system and customize it for their science.  Built by LCO's own team of professional software engineers in collaboration with scientists, the Toolkit can be used as a stand-alone package to build a TOM from scratch, or as a library of useful functions, astropy-style.  

The Toolkit comes with a wide-range of functions to support observing programs and is designed to be extended - community contributions are welcome.  We are currently working with a number of other observatories to integrate support for observations on their facilities, as well as external broker services. 

The Toolkit includes:

TOM Database
The Toolkit is centered around a highly flexible database, designed for astronomical data and to be customized by the user to accommodate science-specific parameters and data products.
Target Harvester Library
Functions enabling users to interact with common sources of astronomical targets including brokers such as MARS, archives and to upload the user's own target catalogs.
Observing Facility Interface
Modules designed to interact programmatically with a range of professional observing facilities.  Functions include submitting observing requests and receiving status information from the telescopes.
Observation Product Retrieval Library
Functions to enable the user to interact with archives and download data products.
Core Views Library
A set of data display tools commonly used in astronomy, including webpages summarizing target information, target lists, and plotting functions.   This library provides ready-made interfaces for submitting observation requests to compatible telescope facilities.
Data Exchange Library
A suite of functions to enable the user to share information and data at their discretion.
Project Views Interface
Tools to enable the user to build customized displays for their TOM system, specialized to their science needs.
Target Selection Interface
Tools to enable user-developed software to interact with data stored in the TOM, allowing them to apply their own algorithms for tasks such as prioritizing targets for observations.
Observation Strategy Interface
Tools to enable user-developed software to programmatically submit requests for observations to compatible telescope facilities, and to receive information back regarding the status of the facilities and the observations.
Data Analysis Interface
Tools to enable user-developed analysis software to interact with data in the TOM, and submit to the TOM the results of analysis by science-specific software.

To download the Toolkit, and find its documentation, visit us at

To see a TOM Toolkit-built TOM in action, click here.

For a full description of the Toolkit's design and astronomical motivations, see Street et al., 2018, SPIE, 10707, 11.

Community Contributions Welcome!

The Toolkit has been designed to make it easy to develop plugins to interface with external software and resources, such as additional telescope facilities.  For example, Bryan Miller has developed a plugin to allow observations requests to be submitted to the Gemini telescopes.

The TOM Toolkit is managed by Las Cumbres Observatory, with generous financial support from the Zegar Family Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation.