FACT Night Shift Guide

You must unlearn what you have learned – Master Yoda

Since the observation schedule is filled automatically (provided the shifter is in the shift calendar) and because of the shifthelper program, the things the shifter has to do were reduced to the bare minimum; you can even go to sleep. In addition, it was decided that logbook entries should only be done for extraordinary events, more on that later.

Because the way we do shifts now has changed dramatically, everyone doing shifts, even people who already did lots of shifts in the old times, should read this document carefully.

Before your first Shift

Make sure, you have a FACT LDAP Account and you have access to the logbook and other FACT services. If you do not have an account, ask your supervisor to create one for you.

Also, you should know the current universal FACT password.

At least one week before your Shift

Speak with your shift partner, how you want to divide the 8 or 9 days of one shift period.

Shift Calendar

You should enter that you are on shift into the shift calendar at https://www.fact-project.org/shift. Do this one week before your shift at the latest, better earlier. This has two reasons:

  1. FACT will send annoying “Shifter Info Missing” emails if there is nobody in the calendar
  2. The program that automatically fills the schedule will do so only if there is a shifter in the calendar

Make sure there is only one shifter per night entered. In case you want to share nights, please add the name of the person taking over just at the time of the actual take over. Then remove the name of the person going to bed. The shifthelper updates its shifter table only every 15 minutes, so the overlap should be 15minutes.

The shifthelper

The shifthelper is a program which will call you and send you messages via the Telegram messenger if something requires your attention. This includes strong winds, crash of the data taking software Main.js and other things.

Entering your mobile phone number in the logbook is not optional. To edit your phone number, login using your FACT account and click on User CP in the upper right corner. You can enter your contact details and especially the Shifthelper Mobile Phone Number under Edit Profile.

Go to https://shifthelper.app.tu-dortmund.de and click on the Test Call button. Follow the instructions there, if it did not succeed and try again.

shifthelper Dummy Alerts

You can place a "dummy alert" in the shifthelper's message queue in order to verify the basic shifthelper functionality. Every 60 seconds the shifthelper checks if anybody placed such a dummy alert.

If that person who placed the alert is identical with the person the shifthelper identified as tonights shifter, this dummy alert will actually lead to a Warning Message, which leads to a telephone call and (optionally) a Telegram Message to the shifter.

So in case you are tonights shifter and place such a dummy alert and recieve no call within the next minute, this is a strong hint something is wrong with the shift helper. Please call your expert in that case.

Entering your mobile phone number in the logbook is not optional

If you also want to receive messages via the Telegram messenger, install the App on your phone and or desktop: https://telegram.org/

Go to https://shifthelper.app.tu-dortmund.de and click on the Test Telegram button. Follow the instructions given to you until you receive a message saying Hello, <user>!

The day of the shift

Data taking normally starts with the begin of the astronomical twilight. This can be as early as 19:00 UTC in the winter and as late as 21:00 UTC in the summer. Also keep the difference between local time and UTC in mind. FACT uses UTC.

Read the emails of the day that came over fact-online@lists.phys.ethz.ch, there might be information concerning your shift.


  1. 20 Minutes before the scheduled startup, go to https://fact-project.org/Checklist/ and login with your FACT account. It might take a while for the page to load because it has to request webcam images. You might need to update the page if the web cam images are gray. Go through the checklist and submit it if everything is ok.

  2. Open SmartFact, the webinterface to the telescope by clicking the SmartFact++ on http://fact-project.org

  3. Power the drive
    1. Click on the tiny wheel in the bottom right corner → Drive controls → Toggle drive → tiny arrow in the bottom right corner
    2. Give your credentials, when you are asked for them, press ok and go back to home (house button in the top left corner)
    3. Go to System status and check that the state of Power Control is SystemOn, wait a bit, if it is not.
  4. Unlock the drive

    1. Click the tiny wheel in the bottom right corner → Drive controls → Unlock drive → tiny arrow in the bottom right corner
    2. Go back to home
    3. Go to System status and wait until the state of Drive Control is Initialized
  5. Start Main.js, the data taking program
    1. Click on the tiny wheel in the bottom right corner → Start data taking (Main.js) → tiny arrow in the bottom right corner
    2. Go back to home
  6. Open the log page to check if everything went alright: http://www.fact-project.org/showlog/index.php#bottom

After a few moments, the following lines should appear (you need to refresh):

 #> 18:19:51.812678 - First observation scheduled for Thu, 17 Nov 2016 18:55:00 GMT [id=22740]
     #> 18:19:51.812827 - Entering main loop.

If something goes wrong (e. g. Main.js crashes with an error), try to restart Main.js. If this does not help, call one of the "Experts on Call".

During the night

The shifthelper will call you on your phone if something requires your attention. You should not accept the call, to save us money. If the shifthelper called you, you have to go to the shifthelper webpage https://shifthelper.app.tu-dortmund.de and acknowledge the alerts. If you do not acknowledge the alerts, the shifthelper will keep on calling you for 15 minutes and then call the backup shifter, which is usually Sebastian, Max or Dominik.

The reason for a call can be one of three things:

  1. Strong winds, that means wind gust faster than 50 km/h, park the telescope.

    • Go to the observation scheduling webpage at https://www.fact-project.org/schedule
    • Add a new entry after the current one by clicking on the little plus sign.
    • Put a time in the near future (1 minute or so).
    • Select Suspend in the measurement column
    • Press the save button

    If you want to continue with the observation, put a Resume task in the schedule at "right now". The page does not allow you to modify the past, so just add a new entry where you can, and select Resume. Don't forget to press the Save button. Keep an eye on the MAGIC weather webpage http://www.magic.iac.es/site/weather/index.html and continue data taking, when the winds go below 50 km/h for some time.

  2. Flare Alert, call the Flare Expert Flare Alerts go now automatically to the Flare Expert, shifters are not called anymore.

  3. Something is wrong with the system, e.g. Main.js crashed.

For any of this, you should also create a logbook entry here: https://www.fact-project.org/logbook/forumdisplay.php?fid=2 If it is the first entry, make a new thread for this night, else add a new post in the existing thread.


It is required, that you are awake during the shutdown. It is safety critical, that the telescope is pointing north in the morning to not start a fire.

If you are not awake 20 Minutes before the shutdown, the shifthelper will start calling you. You can tell the shifthelper that you are awake by clicking the I am Awake button on the shifthelper webpage.

The new checklists automatically switch on the IR lights, when you open them. After you are asked for your password, so you will hardly do this by chance.

Weather: Logbook Entry

At the end of the shift, watch the 'weather video' from: http://fact-project.org/overview_video/ YYYY/MM/DD

During the night you will see here a long list of jpgs. At some specific time in the morning, I think 08:00hUTC a video is created from these jpgs and they are moved into the images/ subfolder (in case you still want to look at them). The overview video is then available as yyyymmdd.mp4.

Provide a logbook entry with a weather summary mentioning:


### Weather Summary
    * 21:15 UTC - (startup) clear sky
    * 22:15 UTC - zodiacal light
    * ~ 23:00 UTC - some clouds
    * ~ 01:15 UTC - person w/ flashlight
    * ~ 01:45 UTC - few clouds in the west
    * ~ 02:30 UTC - very cloudy
    * 04:00 - clouds disappeared


Experts on call

Call one of these, if you have a problem at night https://trac.fact-project.org/wiki/Protected/ContactInfo

Flare Expert

Call Daniela Dorner, if she is not reachable, call Adrian Biland

Multiple phone numbers

The shifthelper will only call one number, the one you have given in the logbook. If you have a number, which might be out of reach, you should use gsm call deflection to deflect the call to another phone number as described here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_forwarding#Mobile_.28cell.29_phones