Science Verification Observations of VISTA

VISTA was conceived for, and will be mostly dedicated to, the execution of large public surveys. In addition to large amounts of observing time, these surveys require powerful and complex machinery for processing vast amounts of data in a very precise and efficient way, as well as a suite of tools for preparing and executing the observations. In order to complete in five years the 6 approved VISTA Public Surveys, the VISTA operations team will need to execute in one year the same number of OB's that one of the VLT unit telescopes executes in 3 years, and this requires a rather ''industrial'' approach to the preparation, execution, and verification of these OB's.

For these reasons, the approach for the Science Verification observations of VISTA has been somewhat different from the methodology used until now for VLT instruments, but still fully consistent with the VLT Science Verification policy. In the case of VISTA, SV will consist in the execution of two self-contained mini-surveys (one galactic and one extra-galactic), which have been defined by teams of astronomers from ESO and the community. This will allow ESO to optimize the survey operations procedures, minimize overheads, and experience the full end-to-end process of survey data, and at the same time to fulfill the goals of the science verification policy by providing the community with a complete and scientifically exciting set of new data.

The VISTA SV Galactic and Extragalactic science cases (mini-surveys), approved by the Director General are available. These documents define the observations that will be executed, but by no means cover all the scientific applications that could be done with the data, which will be made public immediately after completion of quality control in the case of raw data. The SV data will be processed using the 'VISTA Data Flow System run jointly by the Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit and the Wide Field Astronomy Unit Edinburgh, and made public as soon as these units release the reduced data.

Astronomers interested in learning more about the VISTA SV are kindly invited to contact the corresponding PI's. Please consult the VISTA and the ESO Public Surveys with VISTA web pages for more information.

Update Nov 2009: VISTA SV observations were carried out on 15 nights during Oct 15 and Nov 02, 2009. Please consult the dedicated VISTA SV webpage for more information.