Observing with NIKA2

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Starting PaKo

To start the PaKo session for regular observations, log into the pool account "nikas-17" (ask the AoD/operator for the login information), open a terminal and type:

!!!! Note for the person who edited previously: the 1st command line below was "$ ssh -X nikas-17-lx1" => not working obviously, was there a reason for this command? SL

$ ssh -X nikas-22@mrt-lx1
$ goNIKAnew
$ PAKO> @ini
$ PAKO> set project XXX
$ PAKO> set doSubmit YES

Now you are ready to start observations.

Observations queue

To check what is currently in the observation's queue, open a terminal and type:

$ ssh -X mrt-lx1
$ observationQueue

This will open a file browser with a list of all the observation's files commanded, which are waiting to be executed by the telescope's system. To remove any observation's file from the queue, right-click on the corresponding xml file and select "delete". The display will be automatically refreshed.

Starting the NIKA2 pipeline

To have the IDL pipeline continuously processing observations as they are produced, open a terminal and type:

$ ssh -X observer@nika2-a (ask the AoD for the password)
IDL> nk_rta, scanID    (e.g. '20201019s132')

where scanID is the corresponding identifier of the observation (as shown in the example) in the format YYYYMMDDsXXX, where YYYY is the year, MM the month, DD the day, and XXX the scan number.

Starting XEphem

XEphem is the software currently used at the IRAM 30m telescope to keep track of the position of astronomical sources on the sky. To start XEphem, open a terminal and type:

$ slogin mrt-lx3 (or mrt-lx2, much better)
$ xephem &

!!! Note for the person who edited previously: the command line above was "$ ssh -X mrt-astro1 xephem" => but its not working on the nikas-17 account, we need to find why? SL Note: On the desktop there's a Xephem icon, but this one is not working either.

Then on the Xephem window, click on the tab "View" and open the "Sky View". The "cross hair" shows the coordinates the telescope is pointing at. The filled blue circles are the pointing sources. The size of the circles is proportional to the flux of the target. To load the sources catalog of your project, click on the tab "Data" and go to "Files". In the new window go again to "Files" and select the catalog of the project that you are observing.

XEphem example

Starting PIIC

PIIC is a quicklook monitor to process continuously the NIKA2 data. To start it, first ask the AoD to start the production of NIKA2-imbfits required to reduce the data with PIIC.

$ ssh nikas-22@mrt-lx3
$ cd ql
$ piic @monitorX 

with X = 2pf, for pointing/focus monitoring, and X = 1, 2m, 3, the instrument array to be monitored.


In order to correct the pointing of the telescope in a given part of the sky choose a nearby pointing source (using e.g. XEphem) and type:

PAKO> source 0133+476 /cat * (or "iram-J2000.sou" or "pointingIRAM30m.sou", or "CalibNIKA.sou" for secondary flux calibrators)

Now launch the nkpoint script:

PAKO> @ nkpoint mode

where the keyword "mode" can adopt the values b for bright sources and f for faint sources (the l option for very faint sources that require the Lissajous pattern is no longer used). To obtain the pointing corrections, use the results given by the 2pf PIIC monitor. Supplementarily, PIIC monitors 1 and 3 show the pointing corrections based on 1 mm data.

Alternatively, you can process the corresponding scan with the IDL pipeline: "IDL> nk_rta, scanID".

Once the pointing scan is processed, enter the new pointing corrections in azimuth (PnewX) and in elevation (PnewY) shown on the IDL prompt of the NIKA2 pipeline:

PAKO> set pointing PnewX PnewY


The focus needs to be monitored and it needs to be corrected online. This should be done every two hours or so (~3h during very stable night-time conditions, ~1h or less near sunrise and sunset) in the Z direction. To check the quality of the focus run:

PAKO> @ focusOTF-Z fz  

Currently, this script will carry out 5 foci measurements in Z direction within a 1.6 mm range, centered at the fz value. In order to obtain the focus corrections, use the results given by the 2pf PIIC monitor. Supplementarily, PIIC monitors 1 and 3 also show focus corrections from 1 mm data.

Alternatively, the corresponding scan number can be processed by the IDL pipeline:

IDL> nk_rta, scanID1    (for measurement 1)
IDL> nk_rta, scanID2    (for measurement 2)
IDL> nk_rta, scanID3    (for measurement 3)
IDL> nk_rta, scanID4    (for measurement 4)
IDL> nk_rta, scanID5    (for measurement 5)

Then, all measured foci need to be processed together by the "nk_focus_otf" routine of the IDL pipeline to perform the best focus fit in terms of the measured Flux, beam FWHM, and beam ellipticity of the KID's. This can be achieved by running the following instruction in the IDL prompt:

IDL> nk_focus_otf,'YYYYMMDDs'+strtrim(SCANNUMBER+indgen(5),2)

where the ScanID is in the format YYYYMMDDsSCANNUMBER (e.g. '20151019s132'). Once the "nk_focus_otf" routine has finished, check the focus correction values displayed in the IDL prompt under "Fluxes" for the three arrays (A1, A2, & A3) and calculate the average value that will be used to correct the focus. Enter the new focus value (Fnew) as follows:

PAKO> set focus Fnew 

Beam map

This kind of scan is to be done once a day or every two days. It takes ~25 min, so to avoid accounting for the time spent on your project think about changing the project to:

PAKO> set project nikas-22

Beam maps are designed to ensure the source is moved over all the detectors of the array, in order to characterize and calibrate them (field of view geometry, flat field, stability, etc). The aim is to calculate the actual pixel offsets in the focal plane (see figure below). To obtain a beam map go to a primary calibrator and launch the beammap1scan99sub.pako script in the normal PaKo session:

PAKO> @ beammap1scan99sub  (to produce 99 sub-scans, standard PaKo version)
OPTION = a   (ENTER OPTION: a = Az. scan, e = El. scan, l = lower than 60° in El., h = between 60° and 70° in El.)  
W-OTFMAP       /TOTF,  value 12.0 implies /speed 65.0 outside standard range 0.0 to 60.0
W-OTFMAP,  WARNING--CONDITION: Elevation must be less than 69.03 [deg]
OTFMAP 780''x 470.4'' (step 4.8) 
      > Number of subscans: 99 
      > Scanning speed: 65 arcsec/sec 
      > Time per subscan: 12 sec 
      > Execution time: 23.1 min           

Beammap 99 sub-scans

Don't forget to set back to your project once the beam map is done!


This kind of scan is to be done two to four times a day. It takes ~6 min, so to avoid accounting for the time spent on your project think about changing the project to:

PAKO> set project nikas-22

To run a skydip with NIKA2 type in PaKo:

PAKO> @ skydip

The script will perform 11 measurements (30 [s] tracks) at different airmasses wrt. the position Az = 180°, El = 55° in the HORIZON coordinate system. The skydip takes ~6.4 minutes to be finished.

Don't forget to set back to your project once the sky dip is done!

Science targets

Observations of science targets are performed via on-the-fly (OTF). Observers may want to scan only in Azimuth, as scan directions other than Azimuthal induce instabilities/drifts especially for NIKA2, and increased noise due to: change of airmass; reaction to telescope acceleration; coupling to electric/magnetic/acoustic signals.

In any case, the prepared scripts allow for a variety of scanning directions. For example, for a 10'x15' OTF map, with a position angle of 25 degrees, a tilt angle of 0 degrees (both measured anticlockwise), in equatorial coordinates (radec, for the HORIZON coordinate system set azel), just type:

PAKO> @nkotf 10  15  25  0  20   40  radec

This command will produce a scan pattern as follows:

OTF scan

A sequence of several scans can be loaded using a script containing a sequence of nkotf maps. For example, the script observe_NGC4449.pako combines several 10'x15' OTF maps at different PA and tilt angles in the horizontal coordinate system (azel).

Note that in general, it is better to have the longer direction along the subscan to minimize the time loss due to overheads between subscans. Also for baseline subtraction in the data processing, it's always better to set a subscan length longer than the usable map you wish to have (typically ~1' more than the usable map; the optimal value depends on the map size and scanning speed). Scanning in azimuth is better for sky noise subtraction, but the best scanning strategy depends on your source shape and its az-el coverage during the integration time.

Contact: Angel Bongiovanni, Ioannis Myserlis, Stergios Amarantidis (NIKA2 NIKA2 Pool Management)

email: bongio@iram.es, imyserlis@iram.es, samarant@iram.es

Created: 2013.OCT.25, by Isreal Hermelo

Updated: 2017.FEB.05, by Pablo García

Updated: 2017.SEP.28, by Alessia Ritacco

Updated: 2017.OCT.23, by Samuel Leclercq

Updated: 2019.JAN.23, by Carsten Kramer

Last update: 2022.AUG.20, by Angel Bongiovanni

Continuum/ObservingSession (last edited 2022-09-16 10:12:01 by NikaBolometer)