France's Haute-Provence Observatory
The Observatoire de Haute-Provence (OHP) was created in 1937 as a national
facility for French astronomers although the first plans for a privately
financed observatory date from as early as 1923. The first astronomical
observations were made in 1943 with the 1.20m telescope and the first research
paper dates from 1944. The facilities were made available for foreign visiting
astronomers in 1949. The Observatory is owned by the Centre National de la
Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and is funded by the CNRS and the Institut
National des Sciences de l'Univers (INSU). OHP is part the
Observatory (OAMP) federation.
St.Michel l'Observatoire with
OHP in the background
OHP is situated in southeast France on a plateau at 650m altitude, near the
village of St. Michel l'Observatoire, Alpes de Haute-Provence (southern French
pre-Alps) at +44° latitude and 5.7° East longitude. It is located 90 km
East of Avignon and 100 km North of Marseille
and the nearest towns are
Forcalquier (12 km) and
Manosque (17 km).
A schematic road map shows the main
highways leading to OHP.
On the average, astronomical observations are possible 60% of the time (best
seasons are Summer and Autumn). The yearly breakdown (based on 20 years of
statistics) is : 170 nights are rated as excellent, 50 nights with occasional
cloud and 70 nights partly cloudy. Image quality is usually around 2 arc-sec but can
reach 1 arc-sec at times. Seeing degrades severely when the Mistral cold wind blows
from the northwest (on the average 45 days/year, mostly in winter). However,
Mistral winds usually clear up the sky and subsequent good weather spells
follow. On the average, extinction at OHP is roughly twice that for ESO at La
Telescopes, Instrumentation and Detectors
1.93m This telescope, built by Grubb-Parsons and operating since
1958, originally had Newton, Cassegrain (f/15) and Coudé (f/30) foci. Only the Cassegrain
focus currently exists. Available
instruments are : a long-slit Cassegrain spectrograph (Carelec) with
all-reflecting optics (dispersions of 260, 130, 33 and 17 Å/mm) and a
new high-resolution (40000 and 75000), cross-dispersed échelle
spectrograph (Sophie) in the first floor which is fed by a fiber-optic
bundle from the Cassegrain focus. Offset auto-guiding
is available for both spectrographs. All instruments
are computer-controlled and use thin, back-illuminated CCD chips :
an EEV 42-20 CCD (2048x1024) for Carelec and a EEV 4096x2048 for Sophie.
On-line image display
and pre-processing are available for Carelec using MIDAS software from ESO.
Sophie has its own pipeline reduction from Geneva Observatory, derived from HARPS software. The
telescope attitude is digitized, the coordinates are remotely displayed and a
detailed pointing model exists, allowing accurate setting.
New motors have been installed in both axes, on the secondary and on the dome to allow for direct computer control.
Built by REOSC, and operating since 1967, this telescope has
only a Coudé focus. It is almost a twin of the 1.52m ESO telescope
at La Silla (which
in addition has a Cassegrain focus). Currently available is a high-resolution
spectrograph (Aurélie). It features a 3" entrance aperture, an efficient
Bowen-Walvaren image slicer, has resolutions from 34000 to 120000 and utilizes
a thin back-illuminated EEV 42-20 CCD (2048x1024). The spectrograph is computer-controlled
and pre-processing with MIDAS is available. The telescope and building were recently modified to accomodate a
polychromatic laser star demonstrator (EL-POA).
This telescope, the first installed at St. Michel, operates
since 1943. It only has a Newton focus (f/6) with two available ports.
It is now used with a CCD camera
system for direct imaging and photometry using UBVRI filters. A thinned
back-illuminated AR-coated SITe 1024x1024 CCD chip was
installed in January 1996. A
remotely controlled auto-guider system allows long exposures to be made. Image
display and reduction facilities using MIDAS are available.
0.80 m This is the oldest telescope in use at OHP.
It was first used at
Forcalquier for site testing in 1932 and was later moved to St. Michel in 1945.
The first foreign visiting astronomers ever to come to St. Michel used it in
the summer of 1949 (Mr. and Mrs. Burbidge, to be exact).
It features Newtonian and Cassegrain (f/15) foci. It now
accommodates visitor or student equipment for special needs.
Other, specialized telescopes are also located at OHP but are not regularly used : a 60/90cm Schmidt
telescope for wide-field direct imaging with plates or film,
a 1-m telescope, owned by Geneva Observatory,
with the historic Coravel radial-velocity spectrometer, and a 50-cm
telescope belonging to the CNES French Space Agency which was used for satellite surveillance.
Night assistants are few in number and are assigned to the 193cm telescope,
but may be exceptionally available at the 152 and 120cm telescopes.
Two geophysical research stations are located on the observatory grounds.
The Sun-Earth relations group study the mesosphere and thermosphere.
The LIDAR group
uses lasers to sound the troposphere and stratosphere
and study, among other subjects, aerosol and ozone content.
Observing Time Requests and Financial Support
Observing time is scheduled on the semester system (March-August,
deadlines around Oct. 15 and April 15.
Observing Time requests for the 1.93-m telescope should now be submitted
throught the NORTHstar proposal system.
Proposals for the other telescopes are to be submitted directly to OHP.
Several national selection committees (PNPS, PNG, PNP, PMCI)
rate proposals on scientific merit but the scheduling is done locally.
Full financial support for travel and accommodation expenses is
available for all French visiting astronomers through the selection committees.
Foreign visitors can apply for observing time through the OPTICON Access
program, funded by the European Union.
As of 1 August 1999, observing time at OHP is charged to all observers
on a fee basis (not including VAT) of 280 Euros/night for the 1.93m,
230 Euros/night for the 1.52m,
120 Euros/night for the 1.20m and 60 Euros/night for the 0.80m telescope.
Guest-house room and board charges are to be found in the
Jean-Perrin webpage. Foreign
observers whose proposals are approved through the OPTICON Access program
will have all their expenses paid by the program.
Workstations are used at the 1.93, 1.52 and 1.20m telescopes
for data acquisition, instrument control and on-line pre-processing of data
coming from the Sophie, Aurelie and Carelec spectrographs and the
1.20m direct imaging CCD camera.
Off-line PC/Linux stations are available
at the 1.93, 1.52 and 1.20-m domes for general use with the basic software
tools, including the MIDAS and IRAF packages.
The observatory has a optical fiber Ethernet network linking the main buildings and
domes and is connected to the Internet by a dedicated 34 Mbit/s link
through the regional high-speed network.
The observatory owns a complete astronomical library.
There are also engineering, software, mechanical,
optical and electronics laboratories equipped with modern workstations for
mechanical, electronic and optical design as well as instrument tests and
software development. Astronomical instruments are designed, built and
serviced at the Observatory. A recently-built hall is available
for the integration of large instruments.
A Guest House (Maison Jean Perrin) offers room and board facilities to
visiting astronomers during their observing runs. A small resident staff
carry out their own research programs and help in introducing
visitors to the available facilities. The entire Observatory staff, including
research, technical, administrative and Guest House personnel is about 60.
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