Information for Visiting Astronomers

Before your run

  • Getting ready

    With your ESO User Portal username and password you get access to the webletters detailing your observing runs. Your User Portal credentials are also required to prepare your OBs using the web-based application for the visitor mode Phase 2 preparation p2. For general information about Phase 2, please visit the Phase 2 page.

    If you have not yet done so, please, provide your travel information on the Visiting Astronomer travel form.

  • Start working

    Get acquainted with your instrument. The links on the left-side menu bar will take you to the various instruments web pages. Please, be sure to read the documentation in there. In particular, some of the instruments have some specific instructions and recommendations for visiting astronomers, accessible through the "visitor" link on each of the instrument web page.

    p2: In order to prepare the observations, please use the new web-based application p2. Exception is VIMOS whose users should continue to prepare their OBs in the same way as in previous periods.

    For all other users the use of P2PP3 instead of p2 is supported only in exceptional cases. This has to be discussed with your support astronomers at Paranal.

    Targets and backup: Make sure you have enough targets for the whole night. In case you need more to fill the night, additional targets must be requested and approved in advance. Similarly, you should have a backup program in case the conditions do not permit your main program to be executed. In particular, keep in mind that strong wind often comes from the North, so backup targets to the South should be prepared. Additional targets, backup targets and change of set-up must be requested well in advance using this procedure.

At Paranal

  • When arriving at Paranal

    Much of the important information regarding your stay on Paranal is summarised in this document. Important detailed safety information on Paranal is available here.

    You will have two nights on Paranal prior to the start of your run, in order to finalize your observation strategy and your observation blocks together with your operation specialist / support astronomer and your night astronomer.

    You are kindly requested to stay in the observatory Residencia while you are preparing your observations and until the beginning of your run. Visitors are not allowed to drive on the mountain, transportation to the telescope is arranged with your support astronomer.

  • Computers

    From the Residencia you have access to a Linux PC for the preparation of your observation blocks (see Computing). If you have any problem with the PC, please contact your day-time support astronomer. These PCs have all the preparation software installed, as well as the SciSoft suite of astronomical software. See the SciSoft Computer Page for details and instructions, and the Data Reduction Software page for information on what is available where and details about the configuration.

  • OB Preparation

    Please make sure to discuss your observing strategy with your supporting operation specialist or daytime astronomer. For very specific questions or special details, you can request to discuss them with the night astronomer.

    Some specific remarks:

    • FORS2: the fims files are saved in the directory .fims/SET whereas you can put your image in .fims/PREP.
    • FORS2: please do not edit the FIMS files. This may produce problems at the execution.
    • FORS2 observations: fill in as soon as possible the Setup Form which will be handed to you by the introducing astronomer. In any case, set-up forms must be given before 9:00LT the day before your observing night.


  • The Observations!

    On the days of your observations, you will be driven up by one of the support astronomers. He will also assist you to transfer the OBs from the machine on which you prepared them to the system at the telescope. This action is required only if the OBs have been prepared with P2PP3. All OBs prepared via the p2 application are saved on the ESO database and immediately available at the Control Room.

    Once at the telescope, you will have many things to do -- refer to this separate page "At the Telescope", also linked from the left menu.

    You can copy your data to your personal laptop. Connect the laptop to the wireless network ESO_VA in the control room (password provided by the night astronomer). Then push the data from the offline machine to your laptop, using e.g. scp or rsync. You can also copy the data to your visas account and transfer them to your laptop from there.

    We have two printers, laser1 (B/W) and colorlaser (colour) in the control room that can be used from any computer in the control room. They are accessed directly via the internet. If you want to set them up on your laptop, use JetDirect and you will need the actual IP-address, which is found written on each printer. The setup tool depends on the system you are running (e.g. use printtool for fedora <=5; system-config-printer for fedora 6, preference menu - printer for mac).

After your run

  • Data:

    Your data will be made available immediately on the ESO archive via the User Portal. The CalSelector option will allow you to automatically include all necessary associated calibrations into your data package. You will get via email a copy of the electronic night report.

  • End-of-mission report

    Please send us an End-of-Mission Report after you have completed your observing run.

  • No compensation for weather or technical downtime

    In general, the Observatory does not compensate for weather or technical losses occurred during visitor mode observations. Only in very exceptional cases, if a close-to-total loss (>2/3 of the total program time) occurs for technical reasons, compensation may be considered by the Director.

  • Pipeline and Quality Control

    The "Quality Control" group of the Data Flow Operation Department performs many tests and measurements on all the data coming form Paranal. Many results, such as noise, gain, zero points, color terms, etc, are avaible from their page