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An Overview of ING and the Observatory

The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) consists of the 4.2-m William Herschel Telescope (WHT) and the 2.5-m Isaac Newton Telescope (INT), operating on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain. The INT began scheduled use by the astronomical community in May 1984 and the WHT in August 1987. 

The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes is operated on behalf of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) the Nederlanse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO), and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). The STFC, the NWO, and the IAC have entered into collaborative agreements for the operation of and the sharing of observing time on the ING telescopes.

The ING Board has been set up to oversee the operation of this agreement, to foster and develop collaboration between the astronomers of the UK, the Netherlands and Spain, and to ensure that the telescope installations are maintained in the forefront of world astronomy. In particular the ING Board oversees the programme of operation, maintenance, and development of the installations, approves annual budgets, and forward estimates and determines the arrangements for the allocation of observing time.

ING Mission Statement

The core function of ING is:
  • To deliver an effective telescope operation and a coherent development programme.
  • To facilitate the execution of world-class astronomical research by ING users.
  • To establish the ING telescopes as the best of their class in the world, and maintain their international competitiveness. 
  • To pursue the execution of top quality astronomical research. 

ING Organisational Values

Alongside the mission statement, ING has the following organisational values it aims to deliver:
  • Be responsive to the needs of visiting observers. 
  • Have a shared sense of purpose, through an open planning process, and by encouraging all staff to take initiative and hold responsibility.
  • Set health and safety standards which safeguard staff, users and the public.
  • Minimise the impact of the telescope operation on the natural environment, and particularly on the Parque Nacional de Taburiente.
  • Maintain a good relationship with the public on La Palma.

The ING Board

The ING Board oversees the management of the observatory: it agrees the programme for operation, maintenance and development of the facilities, agrees on the budgets, determines the arrangements for the allocation of telescope time in accordance with the international agreements, and makes arrangements to ensure that the views of the user community are taken fully into account.

The following members comprise the ING Board:

  • Prof Boris Gaensicke - University of Warwick (Chair)
  • Prof Peter Jonker - Radboud Universiteit
  • Prof Johan Knapen - Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias
  • Prof Stuart Littlefair - University of Sheffield
  • Dr Alfonso López Aguerri - Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Delegate)
  • Dr Saskia Matheussen - NWO (Delegate)
  • Prof Reynier Peletier - Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
  • Dr Chris Woolford - STFC (Delegate)
  • Ms Michelle Cooper (Secretary)


The ING Panel for the Allocation of UK Telescope Time (PATT) is responsible for the allocation of open time available to the UK community of astronomers on the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes. Starting in semester 2020B, the UK PATT Secretary for ING time is located at ING. The following are current members of the ING PATT:
  • Dr Sarah Casewell  – University of Leicester, UK (Chair)
  • Dr Steven Bamford – Nottingham University, UK
  • Dr Daniel Smith – University of Hertfordshire, UK
  • Dr Stephanie Merritt – Queens University Belfast, UK
  • Dr Nick Wright – University of Keele, UK
  • Dr Wendy Williams – SKAO Observatory

  • Mr Javier Mendez – Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes

The Observatorio del Roque
de Los Muchachos


The Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos occupies an area of nearly 2 square kilometres approximately 2400 metres above sea-level on the highest peak of the Caldera de Taburiente. 

The location of this observatory was chosen after an intensive search for a site with all-year round clear, dark skies. All tests proved that the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos is one of the best astronomical sites in the world. The remoteness of the island and its lack of urban development ensure that the night sky at the observatory is free from artificial light pollution. The continued quality of the night sky is ensured by the 'Ley de Proteccion del Cielo'.

The observatory on La Palma, and its sister observatory at Mount Teide on Tenerife, are the responsibility of the host institution, the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. The Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos was established under a series of international agreements in 1979, and inaugurated in 1985. An inauguration ceremony took place in 1996, for the more recent additions to the facilities. (Pictures: 1985 inauguration, 1985 inauguration, 1996 inauguration, 1996 inauguration, the flags of the cosmos

The telescopes at the observatory include the following: 

A range of common services are provided on site in support of the telescopes, operated by the IAC. In particular, a residencia provides study bedrooms for staff and visitors staying on site, a restaurant, rest room, games room and computer room.

The ING Sea-level Base

A sea-level base has been established for ING. This is located in Edificio Mayantigo, close to the harbour in Santa Cruz de La Palma (picture, map). This another map shows the location of our offices and two frequently used hotels by our visitors.

In addition to offices for staff, the sea-level base provides accommodation, library and computing facilities for visiting observers. Visiting observers are encouraged to spend some time at sea-level, for pre-observation planning and/or post-observation data reduction. This should be particularly valuable as a way of improving contacts between the observatory and the user community.

ING Facilities at the Observatory

An extensive range of support services are provided by ING, both for ING telescopes and for the other telescopes at the observatory. These include the following:
  • Three emergency generators, each rated at 300 kVA, capable of supporting all Isaac Newton Group operations in event of a mains failure (picture).

  • A nitrogen plant, capable of producing 12 litres/hour of liquid nitrogen for cryogenic cooling of detectors. This currently services all the telescopes at the observatory (picture).

  • A vacuum coating plant capable of evaporating a thin aluminium film onto the William Herschel Telescope 4.2-metre mirror. This plant is also used to re-aluminise the primary mirrors of the JKT, TNG, NOT, Liverpool and Mercator telescopes at the observatory (picture).

  • A weather monitoring station, providing on-line weather information.

  • A Differential Image Motion Monitor (DIMM) as a tool for seeing measurements.

  • A transport fleet and associated maintenance facilities.

  • Mechanical, electronics, optics and detector laboratories.

  • General computing facilities.

  • A library supporting the needs of visiting astronomers and staff.

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Contact:  (ING Director)
Last modified: 26 February 2024