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The NOT 'Fast-Track' Service Programme

With the start of Observing Period 31 (April 1st, 2005), NOT has started a Fast-Track Service Observing Programme offering the opportunity to propose short programmes on a running basis and with a short lead time from proposal to execution. A number of nights have been reserved for this service throughout each semester, and approved programmes will in principle only be executed on those nights.

Below, a brief description of the programme is given, and links are provided to the fast-track proposal form and the Observing Block (OB) generator needed to define the required observations when a proposal has been accepted.

New rules

With the implementation of the new general rules for the allocation of observing time and user contributions there are some practical changes to the Fast-Track service programme. The Fast-Track programme remains a service that is provided free of cost to Nordic users (i.e., researchers affiliated with a Nordic institution), but it also incorporates a system to compensate regular Nordic observing programmes for time lost due to interruptions by observations for ToO or Monitoring programmes.

In the case of a Fast-Track proposal from a researcher affiliated with a non-Nordic institute, a contribution to the operational cost of queue-mode service observing will have to be provided at an hourly rate based on the cost of the corresponding services (for proposals submitted as of the start of period 56) of 1670 Euro per night, assuming an average of 10 hr per full night. In these cases, the PI of the proposal assumes responsibility to provide the required contributions when accepting any allocation of time, but contributions are only to be made if the observations are executed successfully.

In the case you are requesting observations to compensate for time lost due to interruptions by observations for ToO or Monitoring programmes, there is no need to submit a fast-track programme, but you should use the proposal number of the programme affected when generating OBs (see below under "Project execution"). You can define OBs up to (approximately) the total time lost, which we then execute in service mode during Nordic service nights.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact service.

Scope of proposals

Only short programmes are accepted for the fast-track programme, with a maximum total length of four hours. Proposals may concern short, self-contained projects, pilot projects, or observations needed to finish projects which were, e.g., cut short by bad weather or interrupted by ToO observations. Within the rules, the fast-track programme is open to anybody, and the evaluation criteria are only scientific quality and technical feasibility.


A limited number of service nights will be reserved for the fast-track programme in each semester; thus, fast-track programmes do not have access to time already allocated to other programmes. The observing schedules list the assigned service nights in the current semester(s).

To offer a broad set of observing capabilities, but at the same time provide a system that allows both flexibility and the highest possible rate of completion of the proposed observing programmes, the instruments that will be available are ALFOSC, NOTCam, FIES and StanCam.

For NOTCam, FIES and StanCam the instrument set-ups are in principle fixed. For ALFOSC the instrument set-up can vary widely, but we cannot provide changes of the set-up during an observing night, and there is a limited amount of time for calibration observations. Therefore, we limit each proposal to a selection of 2 grisms and 2 slits, and 4 filters beyond the standard UBVRi set.

The maximum total time of the proposed observations is 4 hours, which must include the time needed for target acquisition and any night-time calibration observations (e.g., standard star observations).

Proposals that do not comply with these constraints will be rejected.

Proposal submission

To submit a proposal a web-based proposal form is provided.

We have tried to keep the form as short and as simple as possible, so we have provided a limited number of boxes that should be filled out. For each item in the form, a short Instruction window is provided. In the resulting form each box has a maximum size, and applicants should check that no overflow occurs before submitting the form.

The format is what-you-see-is-what-you-get. No HTML or LaTeX code will be rendered, neither in PDFs nor for on-line viewing. However, applicants can of course use these codes as long as their meaning is clear (e.g., $\alpha$ in LaTeX). Note that when you fill in the form you are working locally, and you can save the current contents of your proposal in a file on your own computer. Thus, you can work on the proposal whether or not you have a working network connection. Also, intermediate versions of a proposal (which in principle could be prepared by anyone else and sent to you) can be loaded into the form. With a working network connection, you can create a PDF file of the proposal for a final check, and submit the finished proposal.

The NOT Deputy Director is the contact person for all applications and provides evaluation of their technical feasibility. After submission and technical evaluation, the proposal is sent to the OPC Chair, who will arrange for its prompt evaluation by a member of the OPC. The resulting recommendation will assign a priority on a scale from 1 (highest) to 3 (lowest) and specify a maximum time to be allocated. No appeal of this decision will be possible. The goal of the procedure is to give an answer to the proposer within 2 weeks.

Accepted proposals will remain in the queue for a maximum of one and a half year, after which a new proposal may be submitted.

Project execution

Approved programmes will normally be executed in queue mode by the NOT staff on the pre-assigned service nights. The general aim of service observing in flexible queue mode is to use observing time in an efficient way. For this to be successful we need to be sure that the observations provide useful data. An important part of this is to provide a way (for the PI) to define the requirements of the observations, and (for us) to make sure that observations meet the goals of the proposed programmes.

For this we make use of our Observing Blocks (OBs) system which define the requirements for a set of observations. The general philosophy is similar to that for OBs as defined by ESO. To prepare OBs, please use our Observing Block Generator. Please read and follow the instructions carefully.

When observations have been executed, the PI with be notified automatically, and the data obtained will be made available by ftp. The same proprietary period applies for data obtained through fast-track programmes as for normal observing programmes.

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