Optical Infrared Coordination Network for Astronomy

Horizon 2020

Call 2021A


Call for Proposals to be supported via the OPTICON-Radionet Pilot  (ORP) Trans-National Access programme (Grant Reference Number TBD) in semester 2021A.

The call for observing time at OPTICAL telescopes supported by the ORP Trans-National Access programme will close on 31 August 2020 at 23.59UT exactly. Please review this note carefully, even if you have used the TNA programme before.

The semester is centred on February 2021 to August 2021, but there are small variations at some telescopes to accommodate their normal semesters and maximise scheduling flexibility.

The present EC OPTICON contract ends on 31 December 2020. This call is being made under the auspices of  a new contract (the OPTICON-Radionet Pilot) which we expect will come into force on 1 January 2021. From a user's point of view we expect the conditions of this new contract to be almost identical, although the telescope suite is slightly different. However there is a small but finite risk that conditions may be different, or indeed that the putative new contract may not be granted or that  its start may be delayed. Proposers should therefore be aware that any proposals made under this call carry a small additional risk that they may not be scheduled, or that travel support might not be available. Furthermore, in view of the COVID-19 crisis, some observatories may be forced to close temporarily, or may not be able to host visiting observers. Runs so affected will not automatically be rescheduled, this will depend on local observatory policies.

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 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 will be defined in the new contract but we expect them to follow those are in the present  grant agreement i.e. 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 instrumentation 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 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 that 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 accommodate 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 variation 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 2021A
Facility Nights/hours available Semester Queue Scheduled Time critical observations (e.g. transits) Overrides allowed? Monitoring possible?
Nordic Optical Telescope (ORM, La Palma) 10 Nights 1 Apr - 30 Sep 2021 Only in scheduled service nights Yes Yes Yes

Notes: Apart from regular visitor mode, the NOT offers (queue) service mode observing and provides a wide range of options for flexible scheduling through Target-of-Opportunity programs and/or monitoring programs on any time-scale (from hours, to days, to weeks, to months, to years).

The double image polarimeter DIPol-UF is now available as a visitor instrument at the NOT. It allows for high-speed and high-precision broad-band polarimetry simultaneously in 3 pass-bands (BVR), but can also be used as a high-speed 3-band photometer. DIPol-UF is not a common-user instrument, but is only supported during specific periods. See for more information: http://www.not.iac.es/instruments/dipol-uf

A set of 2 holographic diffusers are available to do high-precision photometry with ALFOSC. The diffusers effectively scrambled the incoming light, providing a more constant and optimal (`top-head') shape, with minimal light loss, significantly reducing any systematic effects in the photometry, making them especially suited for the observation of planet-transits. See for more information: http://www.not.iac.es/instruments/alfosc/diffuser.html

Liverpool Telescope (ORM, La Palma) 50 Hours 1 Dec - 31 July 2021 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Notes: Robotic. Request in hours. RINGO3 has been decommissioned and replaced by the new MOPTOP polarimeter.
TNG Galileo (ORM, La Palma) 10 Nights 1 Apr - 30 Sep 2021 No No Yes Possible with severe limitations

Notes: 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.

GIANO-B may be unavailable for ~1 month for maintenance. Please contact the TNG staff if you have specific time constraints.

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 Jun 2021 Yes Yes No Yes
Notes: CAFE, CAFOS, BUSCA, ASTRALUX are available.
CAHA 3.5m (Calar Alto) 10 Nights 1 Jan - 30 Jun 2021 Yes Yes* No Yes*
Notes: *only possible with PMAS and CARMENES

From the beginning of 2021 there will be three long-term Legacy programs at the 3.5m: CARMENES (detection, follow-up and characterization of planets around M dwarfs with radial velocities), KOBE (K-dwarfs orbited by habitable exo-planets) and CAVITY (Galaxies inhabiting the loneliest regions of the Universe). The agreements with CAHA protect these three science cases. So we suggest that researchers interested in similar scientific cases contact the observatory staff (coords@caha.es) before submitting their proposals, in order to ensure that there will be no conflict with the legacies.

CARMENES, PMAS, Omega 2000 and LAICA are available.
Anglo-Australian Telescope. (Siding Spring) 15 1 Feb - 31 July 2021 No Yes Yes Yes

Notes: Australia has recently entered the second wave of COVID infections and things are again very uncertain and changing every day. All observations have been carried out remotely since 2 June 2020. All OPTICON programs will be scheduled following the usual procedures, and observations will need to be carried out remotely. Observers with sufficient bandwidth and some previous observing experience will be allowed to observe from home. All OPTICON observers will be supported by local AAT support astronomers, and observers will be provided with all instructions after completing the Visitor's Form.

Replacement of the cryostats on the AAOmega will most likely start in May and the instrument will not be available for some time in this semester.

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 the normal AAT Call for Proposals is released.

Service Mode observations are no longer offered.

Observatoire de Haut Provence 1.93m 10 Nights 1 Mar - 31 Aug 2021 No Yes No Yes
Notes: Note that all 2021A applications to OHP from non-French astronomers must be made via OPTICON and not via the national French process. The Low-Res (SPRAT design) spectrograph MISTRAL should be available for 2021B.
Canada France Hawaii Telescope (Mauna Kea) 4 1 Feb - 31 Jul 2021 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.
SPIRou is now available with 7 hours per night.
Carlos Sanchez Telescope (Obs del Teide, Tenerife) 14 1 Mar - 31 Aug 2021 Yes Yes No Yes
Notes: Visitor, service or remote observing modes available.
Aristarchos Telescope (Helmos Observatory, Greece) 20 1 Jan - 31 Mar 2021 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) 400 (hours) 1 Feb - 31 Jul 2021 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Notes: Robotic. Request in hours.

The OPTICON contract is for time on the LCO 1m network. Time on 0.4m networks may be requested but will be subject to agreement with LCO if such projects are approved by the OPTICON TAC. 2m Time not offered.

The new NRES high resolution spectrograph will be available.

1.0m - SINISTRO Imaging, NRES Spectroscopy

0.4m - SBIG Imaging

REM (La Silla, Chile) 300 (hours) 1 Apr - 30 Sep 2021 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). Please check regularly the REM web site for information about the availability of the infrared camera. All allocations will be subject to the observatory being re-opened after the COVID-19 emergency.

SALT 50 (hours) 1 May - 30 Nov 2021 Yes Yes Yes Yes

Notes: Only service observing. Limited pointing envelope due to telescope design. Phase 2 (observing definition) forms will be required from successful applicants.

Only queue-scheduled service mode. Please read their latest Call for Proposals document and use the SALT visibility calculator and the instrument simulators (all of which can be found at https://astronomers.salt.ac.za/software/) to ensure you fully understand the telescope and its pointing envelope and calculate the overheads correctly.

Please include in the technical justification a detailed explanation of the signal-to-noise requirements and how the overheads have been calculated. Please also discuss extra constraints, such as waiting period between observations, time restrictions, weather and Moon requirements etc in your technical justification.

Phase 2 observing forms will be required from successful applicants.

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 ~33% 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 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. 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.

Proposals using the wrong template, or which have been modified to use smaller fonts or narrow margins, will be disqualified at the TAC meeting.

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