Remote Observing Information


As at other UC sites, the remote observing facilities, located in Campbell Hall rooms 144, 146, and 155, provide a comfortable environment to conduct your Keck and Lick observations with all of the convenience of staying in Berkeley. For Keck observations, the facility can operate in "mainland only" mode, or collaboratively with observers in Waimea by eavesdropping on their VNC session to the summit. While there are limitations and trade-offs -- experienced observers only; most, but not all, instruments supported; a small but finite chance of connectivity and data loss -- this new facility should prove useful for Berkeley astronomers. 

How It Works

The remote observing facility duplicates the video and computer connection that a Waimea observer has with the summit (for Keck observations). The remote observer is connected by Polycom two-way video with both the summit and Waimea (for eavesdropping observations and to talk to the support astronomer) on the same LCD. The remote observing computer connects by VNC to computers on the summit displaying instrument and telescope control programs, just as the computers in Waimea do.

The network connection to Mauna Kea is backed up by an ISDN system that seamlessly and automatically connects to the summit if any network hop goes down on the Internet-2 connection between the two sites. There is no ISDN network backup for remote observing at Lick Observatory. Power for the computer, Polycom equipment, and network equipment is backed up by three UPS's that will bridge a power outage for up to three hours. 

The Keck remote observing facilities are explained in much greater detail in this paper.


The Keck policies for remote observing are listed here. Please read these carefully before submitting an observing request. Note that not all instruments are supported. Mainland-only remote observing requests must be submitted 4 weeks in advance (2 weeks in advance for eavesdropping runs).

Procedure for Requesting Use of Remote Observing Facility

Follow the steps listed on the Keck's Mainland Observing Policies page. Note that you will have to email the mainland observing coordinator 2 or 4 weeks before your run (for eavesdropping or mainland-only runs, respectively) and submit a VSQ form. Keck maintains this calendar for mainland observing. 

Lick observers need to email Howard Isaacson to reserve one of the remote observing stations. They also need to make sure that the Lick staff has planned for remote observing on their nights (see this calendar).

For access, you must have a UCB ID that is no more than four years old. Your card must be authorized to swipe into the building and the Remote Ops room. Howard Isaacson will authorize Rayna Helgens to grant access, at which point you will need to fill out the proper Access Request forms. If your Cal ID cannot be coded then you must go to the Cal One-Card office on Sproul Plaza to have a new one printed (which may also require authorization from UCPD).

Each remote observing run will also have a software and hardware check scheduled a couple days before the run. This insures that the equipment is functioning properly and that the remote observers know how to use it. You should contact Howard Isaacson prior to your run to get the passwords for the computers in rooms 144, 146, and 155.

Procedures for Using the Remote Observing Facility

A printout of the remote VNC login procedure lives in a blue binder in the observing facilities, which provides a step-by-step set of instructions for logging into the Keck system for your observing run.

Please use the remote observing station assigned in the calendar (144, 146, 155).


The calendar below shows the nights booked for remote observing on Keck I and II and the Shane (3-m) and Nickel (40-inch) telescopes at Lick. Observers should note which remote observing station they are assigned to. This calendar is maintained by Howard Isaacson (contact info below). Email him to reserve one of the remote observing stations (you also have to make a Keck reservation, as described above) or Room 144 during the day. 




Please contact Howard Isaacson for all questions regarding use of the Remote Observing facilities.