Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the telescopes of the Isaac Newton Group?

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.

How is the ING financed?

The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes is operated on behalf of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) of the United Kingdom, the Nederlanse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO) of The Netherlands, and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) of Spain. 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.

How is the ING managed?

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.

How is observing time shared by the ING users?

The site is provided by Spain, and in return Spanish astronomers receive 20 per cent of the observing time on the telescopes. The operation of the site is overseen by an International Scientific Committee, or Comité Científico Internacional (CCI).

A further 75 per cent of the observing time is shared by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain (extra observing time). The remaining 5 per cent is reserved for large scientific projects to promote international collaboration between institutions of the CCI member countries.

Where are the ING telescopes situated?

At the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM). The ORM 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 Protección 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.

What do we do?

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.
Alongside the mission statement listed above, 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.
What other facilities are ING's?

A sea-level base has been established for ING, in collaboration with the Galileo and Nordic telescopes. This is located in Edificio Mayantigo, close to the harbour in Santa Cruz de La Palma. In addition to offices for staff, the sea-level base provides accomodation, 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.

An extensive range of support services are provided by ING at the observatory, both for ING telescopes and for the other telescopes on site. These include the following:

  • Three emergency generators capable of supporting all Isaac Newton Group operations in event of a mains failure.
  • A nitrogen plant, capable of producing liquid nitrogen for cryogenic cooling of detectors. This currently services all the telescopes at the observatory.
  • A vacuum coating plant capable of evaporating a thin aluminium film onto the William Herschel Telescope 4.2-metre mirror. This currently services all the telescopes at the observatory.
  • A weather monitoring station, providing on-line weather information.
  • A Robotic Differential Image Motion Monitor (RoboDIMM) 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.
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.

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Contact:  (Public Relations Officer)
Last modified: 01 December 2023