Optical Infrared Coordination Network for Astronomy

Horizon 2020

Call 2019A


Call for Proposals to be supported via the OPTICON H2020 Trans-National Access programme (Grant Reference Number 730890) in semester 2019A.

The call for observing time at night time telescopes supported by the OPTICON Trans-National Access programme will close on 2 September 2018 at 23.59UT exactly. The present contract has added two new robotic telescopes, a requirement to support time domain astronomy which is defined as a science category in its own right and some changes to the rules on applicant nationalities. Please review this note carefully, even if you have used the TNA programme before.

The semester is centred on March 2019 to August 2019, but there are small variations at some telescopes to accommodate their normal semesters and maximise scheduling flexibility. Note that technical support for the submission software is not provided out-of-hours or on weekends and late applications will not be accepted, so please complete your application in plenty of time.

Proposals must meet certain EU and OPTICON rules for formal eligibility concerning team membership. Please pay attention to those rules or your proposal may be rejected without any scientific evaluation. The applicable rules are in article 16 of the grant agreement, and the relevant clause is that ‘The user group leader and the majority of the users must work in a country other than the country(ies) where the installation is located’. Since many national astronomical facilities are located in remote sites we add the restriction that 'The group leader and the majority of the users must work at institutions which are outside the country/ies which operate the telescope'. The interpretation of 'majority' is 50% + 1 user, and the user group leader is a member of the user group. In the case of applicants with significant national infrastructures the proposal must contain an explanation of why the project cannot be executed with comparable national facilities. Please also note there is a prohibition on projects which could be applied for by the PI using national mechanisms open to them to access non-national telescopes. Examples of such mechanisms are guaranteed time due to international agreements or provision of intrumentation and bilateral national time exchanges between specific communities. Submission of similar proposals to national calls for the same instrument/project are strongly discouraged. The OPTICON CTAC asks for technical support from each observatory and duplicated programmes will be severely disadvantaged. In such cases, please outline clearly why the proposals are different. Note that projects led by, or dominated by, non-EU persons are no longer prohibited but such projects are limited to 20% of the total allocations. In practice this means only a small number of such projects can be allocated and so such proposals must be exceptionally well justified. If in doubt, contact the OPTICON Project Scientist (details below) for clarification.

The maximum number of nights available at each facility is given in the table. It may be possible to move projects between telescopes to match scientific rating and demand. If your project can be done at more than one facility indicate in the technical case any alternate choices and note any technical issues such as changes in the time request which would result.

Please note the we adopt the following definitions and you should consider which facilities offer these options when defining your project:

Semester: This is the range of dates over which observations may be requested. It is not the same for each observatory.

Queue Scheduled: Weather and time dependent flexible scheduling to meet observing criteria specified by the user and scientific priority set by the observatory. Usually carried out by staff astronomers. Will not be attempted if specified conditions cannot be met and will not be carried over into future semesters.

Time Critical Observations: Predictable events which require special schedule constraints (eg. Planet transits, asteroid occultations, simultaneous observations with spacecraft)

Overrides: Observations which cannot be scheduled in advance but must be triggered by the PI of the proposal to take precedence over scheduled observing due to nature of a statistically likely but unpredictable event (eg. GRB, SuperNova, Comet Outburst). Individual observatory policies may limit the number and frequencies of such triggers. Please check the observatory webpages for details noting that sometimes this mode is referred to by individual observatories as a Target of Opportunity (ToO).

Targets of Opportunity: Completely unexpected and unpredictable events of very high interest resulting from a specific discovery (eg A whole new class of object discovered in a survey, a radio signal or biomarker from an extrasolar planet, discovery of an object predicted to impact Earth). Almost by definition observing time for such projects cannot be scheduled in advance and would normally be allocated via a direct request from the PI to each observatory for director’s discretionary time. Such eventualities are almost impossible to accomodate within the OPTICON scheduling process. If you plan to request time for such a project, as distinct from the reasonably predictable overrides as defined above, please contact the OPTICON Project Scientist (details below) first to discuss options and possible triggering scenarios on a case by case basis. For the moment, follow up of gravitational wave events are considered to be in this category as recent examples have been well covered via DDT and pre-existing national ToO/Time Domain Astronomy programmes.

Monitoring: Observations which require a regular cadence (eg SN decay, giant planet weather, comet activity with heliocentric distance) but which are not highly date/time specific. May be executed in ‘service mode’ to minimise PI travel.

Service Mode: Observations which are carried out by a local astronomer as part of a classically scheduled operations without flexibility for specific observing constraints. Also known as ‘Delegated visitor mode’. The PI is not expected to provide an observer.

Robotic: Automated telescope or network of telescopes using software to schedule and execute observations according to observatory schedule, weather and priority algorithms without direct human intervention on a nightly basis. Essentially automated queue scheduling without real-time human discretion.

Nights available at each Facility in semester 2019A
Facility Nights/hours available Semester Queue Scheduled Time critical observations (e.g. transits) Overrides allowed? Monitoring possible?
Isaac Newton Telescope (ORM, La Palma) 10 1 Feb - 31 July No Yes Possibly Only in scheduled discretionary nights

Notes: Include required instrument configuration information in the technical case. Given the ongoing changes in the instrument suite at ING please check this page:


WFC and IDS are available.

Overrides can only be made on a limited number of nights, mostly OPTICON allocated and discretionary nights.

William Herschel Telescope (ORM, La Palma) 6 1 Feb - 31 July Only in scheduled service nights Yes Possibly Only in scheduled service nights

Notes: Include required instrument configuration information in the technical case. Wide-field imaging is now available at the WHT via visiting instrument PAUCam. Given the ongoing changes in the instrument suite at ING please check this page:


Whole semester: ISIS, LIRIS, ACAM, Visitor instruments. AF2 not offered.

Overrides can only be made on a limited number of nights, mostly OPTICON allocated, and service/discretionary nights.

Nordic Optical Telescope (ORM, La Palma) 25 1 Apr - 31 Aug Only in scheduled service nights Yes Yes Yes

Notes: A new fibre bundle, using octagonal fiber, was installed in FIES. This new bundle improves the radial-velocity stability. Tests have shown the stability with the high-resolution fiber to be ~2 m/s on time-scales of a day, and below ~4 m/s on longer time-scales. The medium-resolution fiber is now also working, and tests have shown the stability to be similar to that of the high-resolution fiber. More extensive tests are on-going.

The SOFIN high-resolution Echelle spectrograph is again available. It only is offered to do circular spectro-polarimetry with the medium-resolution (R~80,000) camera. SOFIN is not a common-user instrument: only limited support is provided.

For guidance on the various observing modes see http://www.not.iac.es/observing/too

Liverpool Telescope (ORM, La Palma) 50 Hours 1 Jan - 31 Aug Yes Yes Yes Yes
Notes: Robotic. Request in hours. LOTUS and RINGO 3 are not available.
Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (ORM, La Palma) 10 Nights 1 April - 30 Sept   Yes Yes Possible with severe limitations

Notes: GIARPS (simultaneous use of HARPS-N and GIANO) SHARED RISK OFFER. Please provide a backup program with one instrument only (HARPS-N or GIANO-B) in case the GIARPS configuration is not available. Service and visitor modes, not queuing. Service time is scheduled on fixed nights so, e.g., seeing requirements do not apply. Objects included in the TNG Protected Target List cannot be requested.

Fractional nights can be requested in 1 hour blocks, assume 9hr per night.

A Long-Term program on the optical counterparts of gravitational wave events is already running at TNG. Therefore, proposals on this topic will not be accepted anymore.

CAHA 2.2m (Calar Alto) 10 Nights 1 Jan -30 June Yes Yes No Yes
Notes: CAFE, CAFOS, BUSCA, ASTRALUX are available.
CAHA 3.5m (Calar Alto) 10 1 Jan - 30 June Yes Yes* No Yes*
Notes: *only possible with PMAS and CARMENES
Proposals applying for CARMENES should consider that the main science case of the CARMENES Guaranteed Time Observations is the detection, follow-up and characterization of planets around M dwarfs with radial velocities. The agreement between CAHA and the CARMENES consortium protects this science case. Principal investigators of proposals which might overlap with this science case are encouraged to contact the CARMENES consortium for collaboration.

CARMENES, PMAS, Omega 2000 and LAICA are available.

Anglo-Australian Telescope. (Siding Spring) 10 1 Feb - 31 July No Yes Yes Yes

Notes: Effective 01-Jul-2018, operation of the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) transferred from the former Australian Astronomical Observatory to the university sector. The accompanying budget reduction means that though support astronomers will be available, observers may have less overall expert assistance on site than previously.

Unsuccessful OPTICON proposals will no longer be considered for general AAT Open Time. Unsuccessful applicants may however request AAT Paid Time; paid time enquiries are welcome at Astronomy Australia Limited.

Current instrument availability is listed on the AAT instrument status page. Proposers should review important information for applicants on the "Applying for Observing Time" page after ~15th August, when the normal AAT Call for Proposals is released.

Service Mode observations are no longer offered.

Observatoire de Haut Provence 1.93m 10 1 March - 31 Aug No Yes No Yes
Notes: Note that all 2019A applications to OHP from non-French astronomers must be made via OPTICON and not via the national French process
Observatoire de Haut Provence 1.2m 8 1 March - 31 Aug No Yes Yes No
Notes: ANDOR 2048 x 2048 optical CCD. Field 13.1' x 13.1'
Telescope Bernard Lyot (Pic du Midi) 7 (TBC) 1 March - 31 Aug based on TAC priority Yes Possible (min 24hr notice) Yes
Notes: Note that all 2019A applications to TBL from non-French astronomers must be made via OPTICON and not via the national French process
Canada France Hawaii Telescope (Mauna Kea) 2 1 Feb - 31 July Yes Possible for high priority proposals Yes Yes subject to instrument availability
Notes: NO visitor mode. Queue scheduled only.
Please pay particular attention to overheads. MegaCam delivers 5.5hrs/night, WIRCAM 5hr/night, Espadons 7.5 hrs/night and SITELLE 6.5 hours per night. Useful information on heavily subscribed RA ranges and other scheduling factors etc can be found here.
MPG/ESO 2.2 (La Silla) 10* 1 Apr - 31 Sept No Yes No Only by special arrangement on a case by case basis.
Notes: OPTICON proposals for FEROS and WIFI instruments only. GROND is not available for OPTICON proposals.

*Please consult the project scientist, John Davies - , before starting any application to this telescope as visiting observers will need to show they have adequate institutional insurance.

Only 80% of each night is available. Programmes may be affected by a GRB override programme although time lost will be reimbursed in service mode.

Carlos Sanchez Telescope (Obs del Teide, Tenerife) 14 1 Mar - 31 Aug Yes Yes No Yes
Notes: Visitor, service or remote oberving modes available.

CAIN (IR Camera), FASTCAM (lucky imaging in the optical) and WIDE FASTCAM (8x8 arcmin FoV). Remote observing now possible.

Aristarchos Telescope (Helmos Observatory, Greece) 20 1 Jan - 31 March Welcome Yes Possible but difficult Possible but difficult
Notes: The direct imaging CCD camera and the RISE2 wide-field fast imager will be available for this call.
Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) 150 (hours) 1 Dec - 31 Aug Yes Yes Yes Yes
Notes: Robotic. Request in hours.

The OPTICON contract is for time on the LCO 1m network. Time on the 2m network may be requested but will be subject to a further internal negotiation with LCO if such projects are approved by the OPTICON TAC.

The new NRES high resolution spectrograph will be available.

REM (La Silla, Chile) 500 (hours) 1 April - 31 Aug Yes Yes Yes Yes
Notes: Robotic. Request in hours. Observations are robotically scheduled, but time constraints and repetition rates can be inserted. Please see www.rem.inaf.it

REM can observe simultaneously in the bands g, r, i, z, (visible) plus one infrared chosen among (z', J, H, Ks).

Unless noted above, any instrument available to national users of an observatory may be requested. Please consult each observatory web-page for instrument details and policies.

Requests for multiple telescopes for the same scientific project must be included in a single proposal form. Request for projects with different scientific objectives should be made on separate proposal forms.

Please do not request long term status. Individual telescopes commit time to the observing pool on a semester by semester basis. We cannot assign 'long term' status as the TAC do not know for certain if sufficient nights on your telescope of choice will be available in future semesters. So please make a single semester proposal and make a note in the text that you will be re-applying in the future with a similar project.

Since the OPTICON Trans-National Access programme is limited by the EC funds available, it is possible that not all of these nights will be allocated at every facility.

Projects must be scientifically competitive and will be ranked based on scientific merit and technical feasibility by a special OPTICON international time allocation committee. OPTICON will attempt to schedule nights allocated by this committee subject to practical constraints on telescope and instrument availability. Due regard will be given to EC criteria regarding new users and users without similar national infrastructures. The oversubscription factor varies considerably between facilities and semesters but, as a guide, on average ~25% of proposals in recent rounds have been awarded time.

OPTICON facility users must ensure that all efforts are made to publish any resulting scientific publications, including data, in accordance with H2020 Open Access Guidelines as stipulated in Article 29 of the Grant Agreement.

Successful proposers will receive travel funds as necessary for them to take up the observing time. This will normally be for a single observer. If travel support for more than one observer is required for clearly demonstrated scientific reasons it will be necessary to get confirmation from the Project Scientist (details below). Please also see the section on Trans-National Access on our Rules for Travel page.

For downstream processing by the individual observatories, successful proposers may be required to complete and submit either Phase 1 (application forms) or Phase 2 (detailed observing request) forms. In this situation the science case will not be re-evaluated but the forms will be used to extract practical information required for the observatory proposal reporting and scheduling databases.

Facilities not in this list are not offering OPTICON supported observing in this semester, even though they may have done so in the past and may do in the future. Some facilities have policies which allow international users to apply via their regular national proposal process or to specific international time which is not part of the OPTICON pool. Proposals made to and approved via non-OPTICON mechanisms will not qualify for OPTICON travel grant support. Note that the results of the OPTICON TAC review will be communicated to the national TACs to avoid undesirable duplication.

The proposal software, an OPTICON variant of the NORTHSTAR system already in use at several observatories, is available at the following url: http://proposal.astro-opticon.org. You are required to register for account (only minimal information is required) and you can then create, share and complete your proposal on-line. Note that each Northstar system is unique, you cannot use a Northstar account created for another TAC process (e.g. a RADIONET account). Download the latex .cls file and the sample 'case for support' tex file. (NB. Updated version for 2019A onwards) These will provide a template which you should use and contains a summary of what information is suggested for the scientific case. Use this rather than creating your own latex file from scratch. Large target lists can be uploaded as a suitably formatted file. In the case of large projects, or those with a large list of possible targets from which only a subset will be observed, upload only a sample of representative targets.

For general questions about the call, registering with NORTHSTAR and policies, rules and procedures look in our FAQ page and if this does not help you then contact the Project Scientist (details below).

For specific practical information about telescopes/instruments, please contact the local observatory team directly.

Good luck

John Davies

OPTICON Project Scientist