Guide for Visiting Astronomers
- Before Arriving:
- During your run:
- After your run:
After you have successfully proposed for NOT time, you will travel to
the Canary Islands to obtain your data. This document offers a number
of suggestions and guidelines to the visiting astronomer to make his
or her observing run as painless and as productive as possible.
As we do not have night assistants you will need to know how to open,
close, and in general operate the telescope. Therefore, please do not
forget to also read through the Observers Cookbook for a comprehensive
guide to telescope operations. It is also a good idea to read the NOT FAQ,
which contains most of the information, you will be given during your
introduction to the telescope.
If you would like to give a 30-minute presentation of your work to the
telescope staff and interested astronomers on La Palma, then we will
be delighted to host this presentation/seminar. We are always
interested to hear about visiting observer's work and will be happy to
discuss our own. The seminar programme is jointly organised by TNG and
NOT, and seminars are given in our
new office in San
Telting if you would like to make a presentation. Please help us
show that the Nordic community does high quality work with its
NB: Visiting observers are expected to make their own
way to the observatory, and should rent their own car.
During the winter and/or when the weather is bad we strongly
advise people to contact the reception at the observatory
(email: email@example.com, phone:
+34-92-405-500, mobile +34-609-554-576) before driving up. In
general, the reception at the observatory should be contacted in case
you have any doubts about travelling to the observatory, or between
the Residencia and the telescope.
The car is necessary not only for transport between the airport and the
observatory, but also for transport between the telescope and the Residencia
(several km on steep, winding mountain roads) at the beginning and end
of night and possibly at other times as well. We do not have staff
to provide such transportation, and observers will also need to be
able to reach safety in the Residencia in case of a sudden (snow)storm.
See also Observers Health & Safety.
General Information about the Island, including maps, can be found here.
Car rental agencies::
Central de Reservas: Carretera Arrecife - Aeropuerto,
35550 San Bartolomé - Lanzarote - Islas Canarias
Tel: +34 928 597 019
Fax: +34 928 800 189
Aeropuerto de La Palma:
Tel: +34 922 428 048
Centro Cancajos, 301
Los Cancajos, Breña Baja
Tel.: +34 922 434 409
Fax.: +34 922 435 076
Other major rental agencies (e.g. Hertz, AVIS) are also available on
La Palma. Several of them can be found in the arrival hall at the
When booking, mention that you come to the NOT to get a reduced
Hotel Taburiente Playa
Playa los Cancajos
E-38712 Breña Baja
Tel. +34 922 181 277
Fax +34 922 181 243
Avda. Marítima 75
E-38700 Santa Cruz de La Palma
Tel. +34 922 420840.
Hotel El Galeón
Ctra. El Galeón, 10
Santa Cruz de la Palma
Tel.: +34 922 411 000
Hotel San Telmo
C/San Telmo, 5
Santa Cruz de la Palma
Tel.: +34 922 415 385
Budget Accommodation in Santa Cruz de La Palma:
Apartamentos La Fuente
(German and English spoken)
C/Anselmo Pérez de Brito, 49
Santa Cruz de la Palma
Tel.: +34 922 415 636
Fax: +34 922 412 303
Discount prices available for astronomers.
Pensión La Cubana
Calle O'Daly, 24
Santa Cruz de la Palma
Tel.: +34 922 411 354
Fax: +34 922 411 354
Accomodation at the Observatory:
To book a room at the Residencia, please fill in their room booking form
their web page. Meals can be booked either directly at the reception desk or
filling up a form that you can access from the previous link.
The Residencia Reception Desk phone number is +34 922 405 500 and
their fax is +34 922 405 501.
In case of problems with the bookings at Residencia,
you may ask for our help contacting
Raquel Lopez or
Tel. +34 922 181114, Fax +34 922 434444
Temporary placement in Spain form
If you are going to work at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory for more than 8 days in a row,
you must send a written notification of the temporary placement as a foreigner worker to the Spanish
authorities before your arrival in the island, according to article 5 of Law 45/99 of the 29th November.
The form you need to send is here:
Dirección Gral. De Trabajo
A/A Servicio de Promoción Laboral
C/Prolongacion Ramon y Cajal nº3
Edif. Salesianos Semisótano 1º Local5
38701 Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Or by fax: 34-922473746
What to Bring
Visiting astronomers should bring:
- Money. You will need:
- 30 euros in cash for the door key deposit (returned to you on
- Residencia bills may be paid with credit cards, cheques and cash
(even of non-Spanish denomination).
- Driver's license and passport.
- Warm clothing, especially in winter.
The Roque can get pretty nasty in the colder months. We do have a few
coats and leggings which may be borrowed in case of problems.
It is probably unnecessary to remind you of the need for adequate run
preparation. This includes filling out the NOT Instrument Request Form
(NIRF), a list of target coordinates, finder charts, calibration
sources and standard stars. Some documentation is available at the
telescope, including a couple of atlases, and the WWW will provide you
with everything else you could need. However, the WWW is not always
reliable, and we might not have the specific atlases you want, so
please come prepared with the appropriate minimum material. NOT
astronomy staff can advise you on the normal calibration requirements
of our instruments, but they may not be experts on your particular
The details of your observing run are communicated to support staff
via the NOT Instrument Request Form (NIRF, and usually pronounced as
the word "nerf"). The support astronomer will use the contents of your
submitted NIRF to configure your requested instrument, or from the
information provided in your proposal if no NIRF is received. This
will normally be done on the afternoon of the first night of your run,
but some iteration with you may be necessary to establish the exact
configuration if there are any ambiguities or special requests. Your
support astronomer will not normally contact you before you submit a
NIRF. It is therefore important that you fill out your NIRF well
before the run, at latest, two weeks before your run. The NIRF
has a box for you to indicate any special requirements you might have.
Please think carefully here and note down anything which you think
might help us. Do you have special access needs, or health problems?
If so, note them here. Visiting astronomers are expected to make their
own way to the Observatory, this means renting a car. If you cannot,
for whatever reason, please say so here.
We offer a service by which you can create a catalogue of object
coordinates over the WWW which is made available at the telescope
after you submit it. We also have a facility by which you can check
the visibility of your objects during your run. Your run can be made
much more efficient and nasty surprises avoided by using these.
One point cannot be too strongly stated: READ THE
DOCUMENTATION! The NOT's primary documentation source is the WWW.
This may not be perfect, but there is certainly a great deal of
information available with which we would like you to be familiar
before arrival. Some of it may not become clear until you
actually see the telescope, instrument or user interfaces, but you
should make an effort to have an abstract idea of how things work.
Observers Health & Safety
Please read carefully through our
Health & Safety Document before arriving at the telescope.
Before driving up the mountain (especially in winter) check the condition
of the road by phoning either our San Antonio Office (922 181114), the
Residencia (922 405000) or the telescope (922 405663).
Your support astronomer will meet you at the telescope around 15:00 in
Winter time and around 16:00 in Summer time on the first day of your
observing run. You will then be introduced to the telescope and
instrument. Do not be afraid to ask questions! Visiting astronomers
are expected to run the telescope and instrument on their own after
the introduction, and you should be fully confident that you can do
this before letting your suppport astronomer retire for the night.
Note that at least one staff member is always present on the
mountain and your introducing astronomer and the astronomer in charge
are always reachable by mobile phone for the duration of your
run. Also, you can consult the NOT FAQ, if you have any
Facilities on the ORM:
The main buildings are: Telescope Building (TB) and Service Building
The TB houses the telescope and all it's supporting equipment and
machinery. It has a control room, an electronics room, a machine room;
one floor up is the observing floor, and the crawl space below it. In the
pillar is the cellar containing the sliprings, building bearings etc.
The SB has 1 main office, visitors office, mechanical workshop,
electronics workshop, living/dining room with kitchenette, toilet,
storage room, and a clean room. The SB also houses the UPS, diesel
generator, and electrical distribution board.
Visitors can use the kitchen and use some space in one of the fridges
for the duration of their stay.
In the TB visitors can find a stereo system and the NOT collection of
CD's, it is possible to connect a laptop to the stereo.
Main meals are to be taken in the hotel (Residencia) further down the
mountain site, at about 3km from the NOT, where accomodation is also
The SB and TB are connected by a fibre optic link, and are also
connected with the outside world through a 10Gbps link to the CALP
(IAC HQ at La Palma) and all the way to Tenerife, and mainland Spain,
using the Rediris NOVA
network, which is Spain's access point to the European
GÉANT research network.
Facilities at the sea level office (SLO):
The NOT has offices
at a more convenient place near Santa Cruz and the Airport. If you want to
reach us, We have pages with contact info
Visitors can connect their laptops to our network, or work at a
station, for instance to reduce their data, make use of the archived
data, and visit the other occupants of the building, the Telescopio
Nazionale Galileo (TNG)
Policy The following is our policy for use of NOT computers by
short term visitors. Following these rules will help protect our
site's security and your observations:
- Any and all use of the computers indicated by NOT staff is permitted
in the pursuit of an observing run.
- Non-profit, personal use of NOT computer facilities is permitted
provided it does not interfere with observations, normal NOT work and
provided all applicable laws are followed; this applies also to your own
computer, if you bring it with you.
- New software may not be installed on any Windows computer nor on any
Linux machine except for temporary use in the guest accounts.
- Only computers indicated by NOT staff may be used by short-term
- Do not try to connect (telnet, rlogin, ssh, etc.) to other machines
in the iac.es domain where you do not have an account.
- Do not advertise any NOT passwords outside of the NOT.
- Do not use instrument computers for anything except data acquisition.
- Do not set 'xhost +' on any NOT computers.
- Use 'ssh' for communications where possible.
- When leaving a computer unattended for any length of time
(i.e. more than over lunch), preferably log out but under no
circumstances leave a screen-saver active which password locks the
Data Handling and Archiving
As of April 2019 the raw, and potentially the reduced, data are written
automatically to the NOT archive.
Fresh data can be retrieved by the PI,
or can be made available to the PI's collaborators, through our
Access to raw/reduced data older than 1 year can be found through our portal
NOT data archive.
Observers requiring access to data from the NOT archive
may contact NOT staff for details of the required procedure.
General information on NOT FITS-headers can be found here.
Problems at the telescope
If you run into problems, look first for information at the NOT FAQ
page. If this does not solve your problem,
do not hesitate to call our technical or
astronomy support. Above all, do not attempt to do anything with the
hardware or software which is not part of its normal operation.
Rebooting computers, removing access panels, resetting fuses,
etc. should be left to the staff. Even if it is obvious to you what
the problem is and how to fix it, do not do so without at least
informing a member of NOT staff. To improve the operation of the
telescope, please fill in a Fault report in case
you encounter any problem.
The NOT is one of the most reliable telescopes in the world.
Nevertheless, we do occasionally experience problems and this may
happen during your observing run. If it does, please be as patient as
you can, our staff will do their best to get you back on the sky as
soon as humanly possible.
Service and override programmes
As part of its remit, the NOT executes a number of service and
override observing programmes. These may interrupt your own
observations. If they do, you will be told the exact limits of time
which the programmes may absorb and after they have been completed,
the telescope will be returned to you. Occasionally, visiting
astronomers themselves are asked to make the required observations.
If so, you will be provided with complete instructions and you will
never be asked to do anything which is beyond your competence.
We realise that it can be frustrating to have some of your scheduled
telescope time taken away by a service or override programme.
Nevertheless, you are awarded NOT time on the understanding that this
may happen. The local NOT staff are not to blame. If you have a
problem with the policy, we recommend you communicate your grievance
to the director (Thomas Augusteijn).
As part of your introduction, you will be told the weather conditions
under which you must actively protect the telescope from possible
damage. These include wind speed, humidity and dust limits for closing
the side ports, observing downwind, and closing up the telescope. The
telescope control system includes a facility for automatically forcing
the telescope to point downwind, or close the dome if these parameters
are exceeded for a significant amount of time. There is some leeway
here so that you may, for example, complete a particularly important
exposure before abiding by the closedown rules. However, if you wait
too long, you will be overridden anyway, and the night logs will show
that an automatic override was instigated.
It is rare that observers are found to abuse the telescope in this
manner and we do not mean to be draconian with these automatic
measures. However, we are proud and protective of our telescope and
aim to maintain it in top condition for all our observers.
If the weather gets really bad, do not stay at the telescope, go down
to the residencia. Particularly if it is wet and then freezes, it can
be very difficult, even dangerous to attempt any movement to or from
the telescope. In general, don't take unnecessary risks, your safety
is more valuable to us than one night's data!
End of Night Report
At the end of each night's observing, we ask you to complete an end-of-night report. This
includes pulldowns to indicate the rough amount of time lost to any
problems and the observing conditions you encountered.
There are also three text fields in which we ask you to summarise
problems, comments and results you obtained. Specific details of
problems should be submitted in a Fault report. These
fault reports can be submitted at any time.
End of Run Report
At the end of the run, there is one last report we ask you to file:
the end-of-run report. This
little report is one of the most important but least appreciated parts
of your run. It is the primary route by which we measure the degree of
satisfaction, or frustration, experienced by our observers. It is your
opportunity to make your feelings about the NOT known, good or
bad. Please take that opportunity. If you do not, we cannot know how
to improve for your next visit and we do not know what we are doing
Again, it might be unfair to ask you to fill this form out with any
degree of eloquence at the end of your last night's observing,
particularly if you have had an unproductive run. Therefore, you can
also wait until the next day, or even your return to your home
Above all, please say something, even if it is just to say how good or
bad the coffee was, at least then we know you notice us!
Accessing the NOT archive
Should your copy of the data suffer any accident, we can send you a
replacement copy from the archive.
Credit NOT in published papers
Documenting the published scientific output from the NOT is an important part of our reporting duties
and essential for our continued existence. Therefore, authors who publish papers wholly or partially
based on data collected at the NOT MUST credit the use of the telescope with the following acknowledgement:
"Based on observations made with the Nordic Optical Telescope, operated by the Nordic Optical Telescope
Scientific Association at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma, Spain, of the Instituto
de Astrofisica de Canarias."
Authors having obtained data through the OPTICON Trans-National Access programme
MUST bring the following additional acknowledgement:
"The research leading to these results has received funding from the
European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No. 312430 (OPTICON)."