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September 13th: submission on a dead line

Submitter: Sander ter Veen
Description: It was Wednesday, the 13th., of September. The wind was howling through the trees, because of the biggest storm this year. It was the day that astronomers from all over the world are preparing for that important deadline: to submit their LOFAR proposal by 2 pm and be granted some precious time at this wonderful telescope. As true astronomers do, some waited for the last moment to prepare and submit their proposal. They are used to this and normally it is not a problem. But not this day. This was the 13th!

Waiting in their office, just after lunch, were three telescope scientists. Eager to see what proposals were coming in, they closely monitored the proposal submission tool, until suddenly, the lights flickered in their office. They had no idea what was going on. They were preparing to go to the Westerbork site, to check the proposals and to sneak out to celebrate the retirement of their dear colleague Geert Kuper, operator. Then the fire-alarm went off, and everybody was summoned to leave the building.

Disaster struck on this 13th, 1.5 hours before the submission deadline. There was a power failure at ASTRON. The servers and network went down, and all the eager astronomers could no longer reach the ASTRON servers and submit their proposals. After all was safe, the remaining telescope scientists left for Westerbork, where they joined their colleagues, avoiding fallen trees on their way. Their primary mission was to inform the LOFAR users of the disaster and reassure them that all was not lost and they would be able to submit their proposal at a later time. This is not an easy task at a radio quiet zone, and with the network also being down at Westerbork. Sadly, the mail servers were down, so sos@astron.nl could not be reached by users, even though the name was never so appropriate. But even if trips had to be made for several kilometers, through the woods, in the storm, nothing could stop the telescope scientists from reaching the users.

In the end, there was nothing left to do, but to celebrate Geert's goodbye party, wait a day for the systems to be brought online by the tremendous effort of ICT, the LOFAR software development and operational support group and a few telescope scientists, and repeat the exercise on Friday, the 15th! This time, without problems, such that cycle 9 preparations are well on their way.

The image shows the team of dedicated telescope scientists at Westerbork, feeling lost without an actual network connection.
Copyright: SOS Team
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