Chapter 2. Introduction to HSpot

Table of Contents

2.1. Overview

2.1. Overview

Welcome to HSpot, the tool for planning Herschel observations and submitting proposals. The HSpot software is available to download from the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) page at the Herschel Science Centre (HSC) web site ( The process of planning a Herschel observation with HSpot consisted of entering targets which were individually linked to a desired Herschel observing mode via an Astronomical Observation Template (AOT). The instrument parameters that completely specify the observation are entered via the AOT. The complete target and instrument information results in an Astronomical Observation Request (AOR), which is the primary unit of Herschel observing. HSpot allows you to prepare all your observations and to determine how much time will be required to execute the observation by obtaining an estimate from CUS server software at the HSC. This is the amount of time users requested for this AOR in their observing proposal that HSpot allowed you to prepare and submit.

The on-line Help in HSpot only presents a very much reduced version of this manual. To see the full manual, either print out the PDF file on the webpage or, if you are opening Help from HSpot, open "Overview" and press the "Home" button at the bottom of the page.

HSpot and this manual may look intimidating to the new user, but HSpot is actually a remarkably simple and user-friendly piece of software. Most users will find that they can start to use it with little or no instruction.

This User's Guide provides information about how the HSpot software works. The Release Notes that are packaged with the software provide additional information about computer platforms supported for this version, performance issues, and a list of known bugs, although major bugs are generally fixed rapidly when reported. To make using HSpot easier, we recommend that you:

  • Read the Release Notes that are packaged with the software (or download them from the web page). Some, but not all, of that information is repeated here.

  • HSpot is a mixture of what is termed "core Spot" (about 80%), which is hardwired into HSpot and maintained by the Spitzer staff at IPAC and Herschel-specific functionality (about 20%) maintained by Herschel staff.

    A list of core Spot bugs can be found at the Spot public bug list page.

    A list of HSpot bugs can be found on the Herschel AO page Herschel web page. Please note that routine support for HSpot ended at the end of 2012. While further releases may be made to update specific items, it is unlikely that any further major changes will be made. Support for Core Spot from IPAC ended during 2012.

  • If possible, use one of the officially acceptance tested versions of HSpot. Although every effort is made to support a wide range of platforms and operating systems, HSpot is a highly complex piece of software and no guarantees can be offered that all the new functionality that has been added for Herschel's instruments will work with all the older versions of the operating systems offered.

  • Save your AORs often. HSpot does not save your work to disk automatically. Given the variety of operating systems we support, we cannot guarantee that it will never crash on your particular computer and operating system. Saving your work often will make these events much less painful should they happen.

  • HSpot offers a wide range of visualisation options for your observations. Many problems and complications with scheduling observations can be avoided by using these to check for potential issues, reducing the need for later iteration with the HSC, or even the danger of requesting observations that can never be scheduled.

Please contact us at the Herschel Help Desk ( with any questions (for good technical reasons we only have a Web interface to Helpdesk).

HSpot is a tremendously complex software package that incorporates at least 30 Man-years of work. Each new version goes through extensive acceptance testing but, on occasions, when used by astronomers we find that there is unexpected behaviour caused by HSpot being used in ways that were not anticipated, or because a change in the code has an unanticipated impact. The job of catching and patching these bugs is on-going. Bugs that have a major impact to many users will be fixed ASAP; more minor issues that have a workaround, or affect very few users are patched in strict order of priority and such patches have been incorporated into the new and incremental releases of HSpot that have come at regular mission milestones. Requests for changes of functionality -- as against actual bugs -- generally have had lower priority, particularly "nice to have" requests to modify features that do not seriously inconvenience users.