p2fc Finding Charts

As of P103, ESO has implemented a Finding Chart Generation service into p2, called p2fc, based on the fcmaker software developed by F.Vogt. This service is also available on the p2-demo server.

For P103, this service should be considered somewhat experimental. If it works for you great, if for any reason it doesn't, please tell us about it (also check below for known errors). In any case OBs must be submitted with attached compliant Finding Charts (unless this requirement is WAIVERed for your OB(s)/run...). Alternative ways to create compliant FCs are described here.

The p2fc service supports most of the VLT instruments (see below). In the future it is foreseen to support new instruments as well as La Silla instruments.

To use the p2fc service, in p2 just select the OB(s) and then click the 'Generate Finding Chart(s)' button. If the instrument is supported, two ESO-compliant (see exceptions below) finding charts will then be added to the OB(s), provided there is space for them (up to 5 finding charts can be added to any OB, so there needs to be at least 2 slots free or already occupied by charts generated by the p2fc service).

Creation and attachment of the finding charts takes typically 10-40 seconds per OB, depending on the instrument, target, and how many other finding charts are being created on the server at the same time. In some cases it can take up to 2mins, and in VERY rare cases perhaps as much as 10mins, to create the finding charts for an OB.

The finding charts are created on the ESO p2fc server and directly attached to the OB(s) in the ESO p2 server. The speed of the computer you are connecting to p2 from, and its internet connection speed therefore have very little, if anything, to do with the time it takes to create a finding chart using the p2fc service. Most time is spent on downloading images and catalogues from external servers. 

"Custom" finding charts

While we expect that the p2fc finding charts will be suitable and adequate for most OBs, there still are many reasons why you may wish, or need, to attach your own, non-p2fc generated, finding charts to your OB(s), for example (but not limited to):

  • Your instrument is not supported
  • Necessary information not included in the p2fc Finding Chart
  • Your object of interest is not in Gaia DR2. Because the p2fc service makes extensive use of Gaia DR2 you may need to provide a custom FC, in case your object is not in Gaia DR2 (e.g. because it is a galaxy). However, this does not apply to simple point-and-shoot imaging observations of galaxies with instruments like, e.g. HAWK-I or MUSE.    

In most cases it will still be useful to include the p2fc service finding charts, but to ALSO include the "Custom" finding charts.

In general, such custom finding charts should still comply with the general and instrument specific requirements detailed below.

p2fc vs Observation Preparation Software

p2fc is NOT an Observation Preparation Software. The corresponding Observation Preparation Software must still be used for those OBs that require it, i.e.:

  • FIMS for FORS2: MOS, MXU, POL (not fast), IPOL (not fast) and OCC modes : FIMS finding charts should still be generated and attached to the OBs for these modes. p2fc finding charts can ALSO be attached in ADDITION.
  • FPOSS for FLAMES: Once the FPOSS setup has been created and attached to the OB, p2fc can then create the compliant Finding Chart.
  • KARMA for KMOS: finding charts must be created with KARMA. KMOS is NOT (currently) supported by p2fc.
  • GUCT (available for MUSE and HAWKI): You may need to interactively prepare the observations, e.g. select the guide stars for AO observations, check the offsets for the sky, mark a single target or annotate special reference stars. For these cases it is recommended to attach GUCT finding charts. p2fc finding charts can ALSO be attached in addition.

p2fc supported instruments

As of P103, the following instruments are supported by the p2fc service -- please take note of the caveats, if any, for each instrument.

  • FORS2: OBs requiring FIMS setups should still attach a finding chart(s) created with FIMS. p2fc finding charts can ALSO be attached in ADDITION.
  • HAWKI: p2fc or GUCT finding charts can be used.
  • MUSE: p2fc or GUCT finding charts can be used.
  • UVES

Instruments NOT supported by p2fc

If your instrument is not in the list above it is NOT (currently) supported by p2fc. The following list is not exhaustive:

  • VIRCAM and OMEGACAM: do not require finding charts
  • VISIR: planned to be implemented for P104
  • NACO and SINFONI: not supported by p2fc
  • La Silla instruments: planned to be implemented once p2 (rather than p2pp) is released for La Silla

Detailed Usage instructions

Just click the button... but where is it?

It requires just a simple button press in p2 to create a finding chart.

You can create finding charts for a single OB, multiply selected OBs (with Shift/Ctrl/Cmd-click of you mouse) or all the modifiable OBs in one or more containers, be it a single or multiple folder or Time-Link, Group or Concatenation container or even an entire run (but not for multiple runs at once...). Note that for runs and folders p2 will request FCs for all modifiable OBs in all containers, folders, sub-folders etc...

When a single run, folder or container is selected the "Generate Finding Charts" button is at the right hand end of the button bar just under the blue menu bar at the top of the window. You may need to resize your browser window to be wide enough to see it.

When multiple folders and/or containers and/or one or more OBs, or simply more than one OB, are selected the "Generate Finding Charts" button is 2nd from the left hand end of the button bar just under the blue menu bar at the top of the window. You may need to resize your browser window to be wide enogh to see it.

When considering a single OB, you must fist navigate to the "Finding Charts" tab of the OB, then the "Generate Finding Charts" button is found next to the "Upload Finding Charts" button...

Does my OB have enough free slots?

p2fc (currently) generates TWO (2) FCs per OB. One, based on a DSS image, showing the field for the telescope guide star with possible guide stars labelled. The second shows a zoom-in on the field-of-view of the science instrument. You must therefore have either:

  • At least two (2) free FC slots in the OB
  • Or two (2) slots already occupied by p2fc generated FCs (in which case running p2fc again will OVERWRITE the existing p2fc generated FCs -- but not remove any NON p2fc generated FCs -- an FC is assumed to be p2fc generated if it's filename starts with "p2fc_ob<nnnnnn>"


Once you click the "Generate Finding Charts" button a popup window plus almost completely opaque black background will "fill" the screen. And there will be "spinners" to indicate "work in progress", both a global spinner for all OBs and an individual spinner for each OB.

If you close the progress window before it is finished, you can go on with other p2 tasks, but there is then NO way to get back to the FC generation progress window. Either you have to trust that everything finishes OK, or you will have to check the FCs in each OB individually.


There are three possible outcomes

  • Done: All ok, finding charts successfully created and attached to OB(s).
  • Done, with warnings: finding charts successfully created and attached to OB(s) but some warnings were created (e.g. also attach FIMS charts, or no Guide star available)
  • Error: finding charts FAILED to be made for some reason OR it took longer the 5mins to create the chart (see below for a more detailed explanation)

An example of each is presented in the following window.

OB(s) with p2fc generated FCs fail the Check

The OB Check process includes checks that any p2fc FC attached to a given OB correspond to that OB (as it also does for GuideCamTool FCs).

If you create an OB, and then generate and attach Finding Charts with p2fc, obviously that FC should ALWAYS pass the Check process.

But if you duplicate the OB, which includes duplicating the FC(s), and then modify the new OB, you may make the attached FC(s) invalid (it depends what you modify). If for example you change the exposure time, the FC(s) will still be valid, but if you change the target pointing, or the offset pattern or... then the FC(s) will probably be invalid. Simply run p2fc on those OBs again.

To be complete, if you duplicate an OB with p2fc FCs already attached, and make NO MODIFICATIONS, then you do NOT need to re-create the FCs in the new OB(s).

Known errors

FC creation failed

If the error message begins with "FC creation failed", as in the screenshot above, this means that p2fc executed without problem (except see Resource temporarily unavailable below), but for some reason no FCs could be created. This maybe because of problems in the OB (e.g. no acquisition template, or because the instrument is not supported) in which case p2fc will always fail for that OB (unless you fix whatever the problem is) or it could actually be a bug in the p2fc code. In which case please contact User Support Department.

! = timeout

When the only error "message" is a exclamation mark in a red triangle (see screenshot below), this usual means that your browser has timed out waiting for p2fc to finish (usually the timeout period is 5mins). This can happen for several reasons:

  1. p2fc server is busy: the p2fc server can make up to 64 FCs simultaneously -- though your browser will limit you to 6 simultaneously -- so if there are many users creating their FCs at the same time (e.g. 2hrs before the phase 2 deadline) it can be that FCs really do take more than 5mins to be created. Remember, as noted above, FCs take typically 10-40 seconds per OB, depending on the instrument, target, and how many other finding charts are being created on the server at the same time. In some cases it can take up to 2mins, and in VERY rare cases perhaps as much as 10mins, to create the finding charts for an OB. In this case, p2fc will (eventually) complete normally and attach the FCs to your OB(s). If after ~10-20mins the FCs have still not arrived in the OBs (don't forget to click the "Refresh OB" button) then just try submitting to p2fc the OB again.
  2. p2fc sub-process gets stuck: A small fraction of the time the p2fc sub-process creating a given OB just gets stuck (normally the other 63 keep running normally). In this case simply resubmit the OB to p2fc again.
  3. Uncaught exception: Some such cases may be caused by unknown bugs in the software that cause the sub-process creating a given OB to crash. Resubmitting the OB to p2fc again will just cause the same crash. In this case please contact User Support Department and the software bug will be fixed in due course. In the meantime, attach your own custom finding charts.

Resource temporarily unavailable

See screenshot below.

Instrument selector