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The Observation Support System (OSS) provides observers at the Space Telescope Science Institute with an opportunity to see their observations in progress, and to view their data soon after the observations occur. Using IRAF, OSS can perform limited processing of the raw data, and can provide hardcopies to the observer. If there is an urgent need, OSS staff can also provide uncalibrated data files on tape.
OSS staff members monitor science instrument and spacecraft performance for about half of all observations while they are in progress. OSS staff also assess the quality of the received data. Remarks on the data quality and on any problems which may have occurred during the execution of the observations are entered in an ``Observer Comments file''. All investigators are provided with a copy of this report, and a copy is archived with the data for use by archival researchers.
The capability of monitoring the observations in progress allows the OSS staff to notice problems which may affect the interpretation of the data in ways which are not obvious from casual inspection. Spacecraft drift or jitter, poorly-centered targets, and interruptions of the exposures by loss of guide stars are just a few of the problems which can occur.
This paper discusses how OSS staff assess observations and describes the OSS reports which all observers receive with their data. It also describes the services that visiting observers can obtain from OSS.
The authors are staff members of the Space Telescope Science Institute.
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