SOAR Telescope resuming science operations

The SOAR Telescope has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic since March 16. (See previous article as well as NOIRLab announcements and updates here.)

Following a successful review of restart plans for AURA's Chilean operations, held on September 11, limited resumption of science operations was authorized to start on September 28.

The first steps in this process are performing careful inspections and critical maintenance of the telescope, dome and auxiliary facilities, as well as pumping and cooling the science instruments. This work is being done with appropriate safety precautions in place.

Assuming the telescope and instruments present no major surprises after 6 months with no activity and limited inspections and maintenance, we hope to be observing with the Goodman spectrograph at some point during the week of October 5. The remaining instruments will be brought back into service sequentially, and we expect that the full suite wll be available at the beginning of November. Again, this presumes that we are able to bring all instruments back into service without the need for major repairs. We are contacting scheduled observers and will keep them informed of progress. Periodic updates will be posted here as well.

Observers should understand that operations will be occurring with significant requirements on social distancing and limitations on group activities. As a result, we may not be able to support complex set-ups, and responses to failures may be slower than usual. In particular, there may be instances where telescope time is lost because of delayed repairs. We appreciate observers' understanding in this regard.

Questions may be directed to the undersigned, your staff contact, or your institutional telescope time coordinator.

This article will be updated as appropriate.

- Jay Elias, September 27