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INT Service Mode Observations for Regular Programmes in the time of Covid-19

In response to the current pandemic situation and associated travel restrictions, the ING has defined the Covid-19 Procedures for Visiting Astronomers and Contractors and increased the capability to observe regular INT programmes in service mode'

If your science team cannot send an observer to the INT due to Covid-19, and you need to request service observations, please read this page thoroughly for detailed advice.


  1. Summary of the procedure to follow for service mode observations at the INT.
  2. Requesting INT service mode observations: who, when, and how
  3. Allocation of service-mode observations
  4. Before observing: Phase-2
  5. During observing: science-team contact, retrieval of data, feedback, time lost, override programmes
  6. After observing: acknowledgment in resulting publications

1.Summary of the procedure to follow for service mode observations at the INT

Observations in service-mode due to Covid-19 are offered for the remaining of 20B semester and subsequent semesters if needed. The observations will be carried out by INT Support Astronomers (INT-SAs) and will follow a scheme similar to the standard Service mode Observations for Regular Programmes at the INT, with a few adaptations to the Covid-19 situation.

The table below summarizes the scheme and timescales for requesting service observations due to Covid-19.

What When
(1) Request service mode for a INT PI programme Earlier than 15 working days (3 weeks) prior to the first night of the run
(2) Reply from ING - link to Phase-2 form Within 3 working days after receipt of the request in (1)
(3) Phase-2 submitted Earlier than 10 working days (2 weeks) prior to the first night of the run
(4) Technical Assessment Within 5 working days (1 week) of submission of Phase-2 (3)
(5) Proposal ready to observe No later than 3 working days prior to the first night of the run
(6) Data retrieved During the night of observation or the following morning
(7) Science team feedback Ideal: during the first night of the run
Essential: In the night report form after the first night of the run

2. Requesting INT service mode observation for PI programmess: who, when, and how

  • Who

    The PI of any regular WFC or IDS proposal scheduled during semester 20B (and subsequent semesters if needed) may request service-mode observations.
    ING can't cover all INT programmes in service mode, so we encourage science teams to send observers to cover their runs (or part of the runs) where possible, and to avoid requesting more service observations than are really needed. This helps us to allocate our limited resources where they are most needed.

    The programme's PI is the primary contact for this request. The PI should inform ING which members of the science team will be responsible for Phase-2 completion and for following the observations. In what follows, 'PI' refers to either the PI or the science team members to whom responsibility has been delegated by the PI.

  • How

    The PI makes the request by emailing to and, indicating the programme and the nights for which service mode is requested.

  • When

    PIs can request INT service mode observations as soon as they are sure they cannot send an observer.
    This request has to be made no later than 15 working days (3 weeks) prior to the first night of the run as shown on the INT on-line schedule. Sending the request well in advance makes it more likely that service-mode observing can be organised.

3. Allocation of service mode observations

The service-mode observations will be made on a best-efforts basis, depending on the availability of INT-SAs, and the number and length of programmes requesting this mode. Note that in the event of more requests being received than can be covered, priority will be given to those progammes for which the justification for service-mode observing (for reasons related to Covid-19) is most compelling.

If the observations can be done in service mode, an INT-SA (or more than one, depending on the length of the run) will be assigned to carry them out.

The observations will be performed during the nights scheduled for the programme.

An answer from ING will be emailed within 3 working days of receipt of the email request.

4. Before observing: Phase-2

If observations can be done in service mode, the PI will receive a link to the on-line Phase-2 form requesting detailed information about the observations. The Phase-2 form has to be submitted no later than 10 working days (2 weeks) prior to the start of the observing run. The PI will be informed of the Phase-2 submission deadline for the programme.

A technical assessment will be carried out by the Instrument Specialist, on receipt of the Phase-2 information, and probably some iteration with the PI will be required before the programme is ready to observe. The technical assessment will be performed during the next 5 working days (1 week) so that the programme is ready at least 3 working days before the start of the observing run.

Delays in submitting the Phase-2 information and/or answering technical-assessment queries, which prevent the programme being active 3 days before the start of the run, may result in the cancellation of the service-mode observations, transferring to the science team the responsibility for sending their own observers to the INT for the run (otherwise, the time will be lost).

Together with the Phase-2 link the PI will receive the names of the INT-SAs assigned to the run (also reflected in INT on-line schedule). If necessary, the assigned INT-SAs will contact the PI after the Phase-2 technical assessment, to check any additional details directly with the PI.

5. During observing: science team contact, data retrieval, feedback, time lost, override programmes

  • Science team contact

    The PI or a team member must be contactable during the day, throughout the observing run. Ideally, someone should also be contactable at least at the beginning of the first night of the run.

  • Data retrieval

    A report of the observing night will be issued at the end of each night and PIs will receive an email the following morning, with instructions for downloading the data via ftp.

    For real-time inspection of the data, the INT observer can upload the images to an ftp area just after they are obtained. Also, during the night, video or voice communication with the INT observer can be established using Skype, Zoom etc. PIs should avoid using the phone at the telescope for this purpose.
    PIs should agree about real-time data transfer, and coordinate night-time communications, with the assigned INT-SAs (ING Schedules and Time Allocations) well in advance the starting of the run, by email.
    For more information visit the Remote Follow Up of Observations page.

  • Feedback

    The science team must provide prompt feedback about the observed data.

    Together with the night report the PI will receive a feedback form. The feedback by the science team about the data received is essential for the success of the observing run and for the observer at the telescope. Science teams are requested to send feedback at least after the first night of observations. Failing to send that first-night feedback before the end of the second night of observations may cause the run to be cancelled. If PIs knows they are not going to be able to send feedback they should indicate this on the Phase-2 form.

  • Possible time lost during INT service mode observations

    ING is not obliged to pay back any observing time lost during INT service-mode observations.

    Technical problems, bad weather and possible observing errors by the INT-SAs performing the observations will count as usual for a PI visitor programme. The INT-SAs carrying out the observations will have the same responsibility as a team member of the programme.

  • Overrides

    Service-mode observations can be overridden by authorised Override Programmes. In the case of a programme which can override that being observed in service mode 'only at the discretion of the observer', the PI should indicate in the Phase-2 form if overrides will NOT be accepted. If no explicit information is given, the INT-SA observing will proceed to do the override.

6. After observing: acknowledging the INT-SAs observers and the INT service-mode observing in publications

    Acknowledging the INT-SAs observers

    ING encourages the PIs to invite the INT-SAs who perform the observations to co-author the publications (papers, proceedings, etc.) resulting from the data. This invitation can be made at any time, including after observing takes place.

    Other forms of collaboration between the science team and the INT-SAs (e.g. participation in the science discussions, data reduction and data analysis, preparation of the publications) are also welcome and may be agreed between the interested parties.

    The affiliation of the INT-SA in the publication must include the ING. The INT-SA is responsible for providing the PIs with an email address at which they can be contacted after their year of studentship at ING.

  • Acknowledging INT service-mode in publications

    The ING asks users of its facilities to give appropriate acknowledgement of the service-mode observing in their published papers. Please read the notes in the ING Acknowledgements page for suggestions on how to acknowledge INT Service Mode.

The service-mode observations will only be carried out after the PI has explicitly agreed with the procedures set out on this page. Queries are welcome, and should be addressed to Cecilia Farina.

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Contact:  (INT Telescope Manager)
Last modified: 13 November 2020