Instructions for Visiting Astronomers

One month before your scheduled run

By this time, you should have received the announcement of your time allocation, available at the visas pages using your personal ID and password (if you have not received this webletter or the ID, please contact; that message contains important information about your run and the related logistics. In particular, you have to fill the travel information if you have not already done so (if you have already organized your trip with va-travel, you are set, no need to re-contact them because of this mail).You are invited to consult the documentation available on Paranal Science Operations Web Page, in particular the section for Visiting Astronomers.

Less than 30 days to your arrival on Paranal

it will be beneficial to start with the observation preparations:

  • read the User Manual,
  • know how to use P2PP,
  • be able use the ETC to estimate the exposure time (DIT)
  • have a defined observing strategy:
    • which observation templates do you plan to use, in which order, and which instrumental set-up will give you the best outcome?
    • Do you need special calibrators? We have many OBs for normal standard stars and day calibrations ready for use, but if you have special requirements, you should prepare these too.
    • Prepare your list of targets: remember that you can only observe those targets listed in your Phase 1 proposal. If you wish to change targets, or if you need additional targets, you will have to request them. Remember that we often have strong wind from the North (meaning that you will have to observe south of -25deg Dec), and backup targets might also be needed. Check out the Visitor Mode Phase 2 Preparation Program (P2PP) recommendations . ADDITIONAL AND BACKUP TARGETS, AS WELL AS SET-UP CHANGES must be requested and approved in advance using this specific procedure.

When arriving on Paranal

You will normally have 2 nights in order to finalize your observation strategy and your observation blocks together with your support astronomer.

Should you have any technical question, please send an email to

For general operation or Paranal-related question, please write to, and please indicate the program ID in the subject line.

For scheduling questions, please address your email to ESO's Observing Programmes Office, via

During your Observations

The Observatory has prepared OBs for most of the setups necessary for standards calibrations. They can be used at anytime for a visitor run and if needed can be modified online (at the console) to use narrow band (NB) and/or intermediate band (IB) filters.

Calibrations of the data taken over night are done automatically on the next morning. The completeness and quality of these calibrations are checked by your daytime support astronomer. Only special calibrator OBs need to be prepared by yourself.

Where to find the data?

Visiting astronomers will work with the astuser3 account on wgsoff3. The data is sorted into directories named by the date with the data taken from 12:00 to 11:59 UT, e.g.:



The science and calibration data of SPHERE are automatically reduced by the pipeline, but the science data is processed with old calibration files and is intended for quick-look only. Pipeline-reduced data will not be available in the ESO data archive; the user is welcome to copy them to their computers during or immediately after the observations.

After your Observations

Please complete an end-of-mission report at the end of your observing run.