Queued Service Observations

Table of Content

Current News and Events Pre-semester information During Observations Post Observations Information
News (Phase1 and PH2) QSO and QSO SNR mode Observations Reduction
2020A Instruments Night Reports DADS
TOO Phase 1 Statistics Proprietary time
Contact PH2 TOO Archived information

Current News and Events [ Return to top ]


May 19 update: ESPaDOnS run added June 10-14. The schedule for June and July was updated to add a very short ESPaDOnS run.

May 6 update: CFHT resumes limited operations and observations. On May 5, 2020, Governor Ige identified the Maunakea Observatories as one of Hawaii's risk organizations and businesses that are safe to reopen with health and safety precautions in place. As a result, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope made the following changes to our operations effective May 7, 2020:

  • We resumed nighttime operations May 7th from our Waimea remote observing room, with SPIRou. To limit technical activities and interactions between the staff, we will alternate between SPIRou (during bright time) and MegaCam (during dark time). The current schedule only has MegaCam and SPIRou, however the June and July schedule may be modified in the coming weeks.
  • Working from home is mandatory for all staff who can perform their duties remotely.
  • We will limit our operations at our Waimea headquarters and summit to essential tasks.

For additional details, we invite you to read the full statement on our website.

As the situation evolves, we continue to closely monitor COVID-19 updates and follow all recommendations from the Hawai'i State Department of Health and Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

We will keep you updated with any new changes. Please email qsoteam@cfht.hawaii.edu if you have questions or concerns.

Jan 27 status: a temporary solution to address the telescope hydraulics failure experienced on Dec 13, 2019, was designed and implemented by the technical staff, and normal operations resumed with SPIRou Jan 25/26.

Semester 2020A information:

In November 2019, the SAC issued a recommendation that the "QSO team should make special efforts to ensure that the ratio of validated to allocated time for Large Programs is at least equal to that of all PI programs. The timely completion of Large Programs is critical to the CFHT science output."

In November 2018, the SAC issued a completion policy for all Large Programs started in 2017A and onward. Starting with a Large Program's mid-term review , a LP completion review will be triggered if a LP has an expected program completion below 80%, and/or SAC considers that the LP may not achieve the proposed science goals. If the review is favorable, the LP will be allocated time in future semesters in order to bring the program completion to at least 80%. Depending upon the available pool of future unallocated LP time (considering the maximum fraction for LPs set by the agencies), these allocations could be in semesters during and/or after the term.

Starting with semester 2017A, MegaCam and ESPaDOnS are operated under the QSO-SNR mode. Only certain programs will be exempted from using the SNR mode. Please read the QSO-SNR mode page for details.

You may request information at any time by emailing qsoteam -=at=- cfht.hawaii.edu .

To obtain information on the progress of your program (MegaCam, WIRCam, ESPaDOnS, and SITELLE only), please consult the QSO Night Reports

2020A schedule and programs

List of 2020A QSO programs for MegaCam, WIRCam, ESPaDOnS, SITELLE, and SPIRou.

QrunID Instrument HST Dates # Nights Status Run Summary
20AQ01 MegaCam Feb 1-3 3 Done The end-of-January run continued into February.
20AQ02 SPIRou Feb 4-18 15 Done Less than half the nights were useable. This run was affected by clouds, snow, ice, and high winds.
20AQ03 SITELLE Feb 19-24 6 Done Although the weather was not perfect, very little time was lost to unusable sky conditions. There were no technical issues. This short run was very successful.
20AQ04 MegaCam Feb 25-Mar 3 8 Done This short run started with photometric skies and excellent seeing. A winter storm left snow and ice on the mountain, and prevented us from observing for the equivalent of about 4 nights.
20AQ05 WIRCam Mar 4-9 6 Done
20AQ06 SPIRou Mar 10-18 9 Done
20AQ07 MegaCam Mar 19-23 13 Done The exchange that had been planned for Mar 18 has been postponed due to inclement weather.
20AQ08 SPIRou Mar 24 - May 5 No operations Due to the COVID-19 pandemics and Gov. Ige's stay-at-home order, CFHT's nighttime observations have been suspended until further notice.
20AQ08 SPIRou May 6 - 14 8.5 nights Done Observations resumed May 7th right after midnight
20AQ09 MegaCam May 15 - 28 14 Started
20AQ10 SPIRou May 29 - June 09 12 Not Started
20AQ11 ESPaDOnS June 10 - 14 5 Not Started
20AQ12 MegaCam Jun 15 - 28 14 Not Started
20AQ13 SPIRou Jun 29 - Jul 09 11 Not Started
20AQ14 MegaCam Jul 10 - 26 17 Not Started
20AQ15 SPIRou Jul 27 - 31 5 Not Started


The QSO mode is well-adapted for target-of-opportunity (TOO) programs. Only programs accepted by one of the CFHT national TACs will be allowed on the telescope.

Director's Discretionary time proposal can also be submitted for TOO observations. To do this, you must use NorthStar and create a new proposal (see button at the bottom of the page after you've logged in) using "Director Discretionary" as the chosen community. The CFHT Executive Director reviews each Discretionary Time proposal. If telescope time is allocated, the QSO Team will ask the PI to fill in the required PH2 information.


You need to contact the QSO Team? Please send an email to qsoteam -=at=- cfht.hawaii.edu. During a QSO run, communication between the investigators and the QSO Team will be done exclusively through the QSO Coordinator, not the QSO observer. For the status of your program, please refer first to the Web night reports (below).

Informations for Semester Preparation [ Return to top ]


The main concept behind the QSO mode is to execute programs only during the sky conditions (seeing, background, clouds, etc.) requested by Principals Investigators (PIs) in order to meet the programs' science goals. This is achieved by grouping all programs in a database and by selecting appropriate observations according to a set of constraints, rules and sky conditions. Programs are then carried out by a well trained, local team of observers in a service mode (i.e. investigators are not present at the observatory).

QSO SNR mode

The QSO-SNR mode has been tested on ESPaDOnS and MegaCam for a few semesters now. Following a SAC recommendation, the QSO-SNR mode will be the default operational mode for ESPaDOnS and MegaCam, starting in 2017A.

This mode is NOT used for non-sidereal observations, very short exposures of 30 seconds or less, or observations that require fixed exposure times designed to ensure a specific spacing in time between observations.

The QSO SNR page explains how the QSO SNR mode works.


The QSO mode is offered with CFHT's 5 main instruments, the visible imager MegaCam, the infrared imager WIRCam, the optical spectropolarimeter ESPaDOnS, the infrared spectropolarimeter SPIRou, and the optical imaging Fourier transform spectrometer SITELLE. Each instrument has a web page which offers technical details and help about observations:

Instruments offered in QSO mode
Exposure time calculators
DIET for MegaCam DIET for WIRCam ETC for ESPaDOnS ETC for SPIRou ETC for SITELLE

Phase 1 tool

The first step for applying for time in a queue mode is to submit a proposal to the Time Allocation Committee. For all agencies except UH and Opticon, this must be done through CFHT's Phase 1 tool.

CFHT is using the Northstar Phase 1 tool, adapted for CFHT. Please read the PH1 tutorials (MegaCam, WIRCam, ESPaDOnS, SPIRou, SITELLE) and NorthStar HelpFiles carefully!

Starting with semester 2017A, QSO-SNR mode will be the default operational mode for ESPaDOnS and MegaCam.

This mode is NOT used for non-sidereal observations, very short exposures of 30 seconds or less, or observations that require fixed exposure times designed to ensure a specific spacing in time between observations.

To opt out of the SNR mode, PI must include a justification in their proposal. All proposals, whether they will be performed with the SNR mode or not, must request the number of hours needed to reach the scientific goals under specific sky constraints, and justify the exposure times and corresponding SNR. In particular, please ensure you have added calculations from the relevant Exposure Time Calculator.

Please consult the QSO SNR mode page for details.

It is STRONGLY recommended to carefully read the relevant document before starting your Phase 1.

Those documents are updated with new information before each semester. Investigators should spend some time to familiarize themselves with the QSO concept, the characteristics of the instruments, and the general procedures.

Quick checklist for Phase 1:
  • You have checked the PDF file for the proposal.
  • You have used the appropriate EXPOSURE TIME CALCULATOR.
  • You have requested time in HOURS (e.g. 14.7h).
  • If you program cannot be performed under the QSO SNR mode, YOU HAVE JUSTIFIED WHY.
  • Your requested time includes the appropriate OVERHEADS: readout time, telescope slews if appropriate.
    For the correct values to use, please see the instruments' tutorials.
  • If your program is a Snapshot program, it requests bad sky conditions (bad Image Quality or high extinction), is simple, and is made of short observations.
  • You have included on-sky calibrations if needed and if not already taken care of by the QSO Team (e.g.: photometric standard stars for narrow-band filters; spectroscopic standard stars).
  • You have contacted the QSO Team for any question or concern.

PLEASE REMEMBER YOUR PASSWORD! CFHT cannot retrieve NorthStar passwords, so if you have forgotten your login information, use the "Forgotten password?" option on the login page or register again.

CFHT Phase 1 tool
MegaCam tutorial
WIRCam tutorial
ESPaDOnS tutorial
SPIRou tutorial
SITELLE tutorial
NorthStar access MegaCam WIRCam ESPaDOnS SPIRou SITELLE

For more information concerning the QSO Project and for any help during the preparation of your queue proposal, contact the QSO Team (qsoteam -=at=- cfht.hawaii.edu).


PH2 is a sophisticated Web based tool designed specifically for the Phase 2 submission of observations with MegaCam, WIRCam, and ESPaDOnS, and available from the CFHT Web site.

Accepted proposals can be entered in PH2 usually in June for the "B" semesters, and in November for the "A" semesters. The deadlines might vary for each instrument, or for different agencies. .

  1. The telescope schedule is prepared after PIs have all entered their PH2; if not knowing the telescope schedule in advance causes problems for your PH2, please email qsoteam -=at=- cfht.hawaii.edu for further instructions.
  2. If you have any question or comment, please email the QSO Team (qsoteam -=at=- cfht.hawaii.edu). Do NOT email individual members of the team, because this can delay answers depending on each member's schedule.

PH2 Documentation and Tutorials

Two short documents present How QSO works at CFHT and the General Principals of Phase 2 (PH2). Each document starts with an Abstract and a set of keywords, to help users find topics of interest. All users are encouraged to read those documents at least once, which should take about 15 minutes.

The tutorials for each instrument start with a short section at the top to summarize the basics of PH2. A Table of Content and links throughout the tutorials ease navigation. The tutorials are available within PH2 through the "Tutorial" button, or directly from the following links:

CFHT Phase 2 tool MegaCam tutorial WIRCam tutorial ESPaDOnS tutorial SITELLE tutorial
Open PH2 PH2 Tutorial for MegaCam PH2 Tutorial for WIRCam PH2 Tutorial for ESPaDOnS PH2 Tutorial for SITELLE
Exposure time calculators

When ready, you may login to PH2:

If you are not already familiar with the instruments offered, you should consult the respective Web pages:

Instruments offered in QSO mode

Informations useful during Observations [ Return to top ]


Each day during a QSO run, a CFHT astronomer prepares various queues suitable for the coming night, based on PI requests for Image Quality and sky conditions, and ranking of the programs. "A" programs are given priority, followed by "B", "C", and Snapshot programs. Queues are also made as much as possible to give each agency its share of the night; if an agency has 30% of the allocated time on a given instrument, it will be found on average in about 30% of each queue. At night, depending on the sky conditions, the CFHT Remote Observer selects and executes one or more queues. Each exposure receives a grade indicating the quality of the data (grades 1 and 2 are good for the science proposed), and most exposures also receive comments about sky conditions, technical issues, etc. The next morning, a CFHT astronomer reviews those grades and comments, and validates exposures which are good enough for the science goals proposed; only validated exposures are taken out of a PI's allocated time. Exposures which are not validated will be tried again if possible.

Night Reports

During a semester, night reports are available after the QSO Team has performed the data evaluation for the previous night. The night reports also allow the user to extract the current status of any QSO program. Therefore, it is not necessary to contact the QSO Team to know what's happening with an observing program. More information, notably regarding the weather conditions and data distribution, have also been added to these reports.


The current statistics on the QSO mode for semesters up to 2019A are available. This includes the time distribution for the different Agencies as well as some global numbers on the programs. The statistics for semesters 2019B and later have been discontinued.

Information useful after Observations [ Return to top ]


Data are detrended or processed after each run (MegaPrime and WIRCam; SITELLE) or reduced after each night (ESPaDOnS) by a team of astronomers and software engineers. PIs who request immediate (or quick) access to their data can receive raw data or detrended data as soon as available. When data are ready, PIs receive an email from CFHT with the location of their data; the data (detrended, and raw for some instruments), documentation, instructions, and metadata are downloadable from a private URL with a unique key sent to PIs.

Each instrument has its own data reduction pipeline, maintained by CFHT astronomers and software engineers:


The DADS Team distributed data to PIs. At the beginning of each semester or when data are available, PIs receive information on how to retrieve their data.

CFHT offers a tool called cfhtget, which can be used to efficiently retrieve ESPaDOnS data: MacOSX and Linux versions are available.

Proprietary period

The proprietary period of QSO data extends by default to 1 year + 1 month starting at the end of the QSO semester. For instance, data taken for the 2009B semester (August 1 - January 31) will have a default release date set to 02/28/2011. The extra month is allowed because of possible delays in the data reduction distribution of observations carried out near the end of a semester. If an extension is requested during the Phase 1 period and is approved by TAC, a new date will be set for this program through the QSO system. This release date for the QSO data is indicated in the fits headers by the keyword REL_DATE.

Note: Since data can be taken at almost any time during a semester in a queue mode, it will not be possible to change the release date after the beginning of a semester.

For snapshot programs, the proprietary period is three months following the end of the semester. The CFHTLS data have a different release date, regarding the proprietary period system supported by the Board of Directors.

Archived information