External Service Desk Knowledge BaseObservation Planning Tool

Observation Planning Tool

The OPT allows you to set up an observation and execute a simulation of it for MeerKAT. The ensuing simulation log provides a summary of the observation, including an estimate of the slew times and the overall observation duration including calibration. You will be able to export your setup in JSON format for future use.

The OPT-lite (used in the 2020 call for proposals) has been discontinued. Prospective users planning to submit a proposal can now simulate and save a schedule block on the OPT without having an active Project ID. The ability to submit the schedule block will be disabled, but all other functionality is available.

Before using the OPT, view this slideshow, or the video linked below, demonstrating its functionality in setting up the following mock observation:

Observation of the Galaxy Cluster MACS J0025.4-1222

8 hours (480 min) in total

10 min (600 sec) bandpass calibrator scan every ~3 hours

2 min (120 sec) gaincal scan

30 min (1800 sec) target scan

Video guide to using the MeerKAT Observation Planning Tool

This video is also hosted on the SARAO Web YouTube channel, and as part of the MeerKAT student training videos hosted on the SARAO MeerKAT Student Community page.

Logging in and out

Log in to the OPT using your SARAO account credentials. First-time users should read the Getting a SARAO account page.

Note that sessions that are left unattended for approximately 30 minutes will expire, requiring you to log in again. To log out, click on the user icon (top right) to access the menu.

Importing coordinates

To begin, you will need a comma-separated values file (ascii.csv) with the target's J2000 coordinates in the following format:

ObjectName, radec target, HH:MM:SS.SS, ±DD:MM:SS.S

If you have more than one target, you may include them in a single CSV file, with one target per line. The ObjectName must not contain spaces and can have a maximum of 12 characters.

Set up your observation following this sequence














The Gaincal --> Target --> Gaincal segment can loop for up to 3 hours between Bandpass scans.

(This could include multiple target/gaincal pairs.)

Calibrators can be selected within the OPT. More information on the calibrators and recommended integration times and cadences can be found here.


Before you run a simulation of your set up, you will need to indicate an adequate start LST range. We emphasize that the LST range places a constraint on the LST window within which your observation can commence. Failure to set it carefully will risk sources being below the horizon limit during the course of the observation.

Each time you click Simulate the OPT executes a dry run of your setup as it would be observed on MeerKAT. You will be taken to the Simulation Log and corresponding Elevation vs. Time plot. You must read the log to ensure that it tallies with your setup. Take special note of sources that are below the horizon limit.

Simulate will also output the Total observation time near the end of this log. Such outputs, for appropriately simulated dry runs of your proposed observing program, can be used to compute the total observing time request to be included in the science case and cover sheets of your proposal.