Proposal Format





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Call for Proposals


This Material Provided for Reference Only

1.0 Telescopes

  • Keck I and Keck II, with possible trades for SUBARU time.
  • Palomar Hale/200-inch.

2.0 Eligibility

Caltech Faculty, Senior Research Associates, Senior Research Fellows, Post-Doctoral Scholars, Senior Research Staff (approved by the COO Director) and Graduate Students may apply for COO-administered observing time at Keck and Palomar, subject to the following:

  • Applicants must be in residence at Caltech at the time proposals are submitted and throughout the subsequent academic quarter (e.g. fall quarter for fall-submitted observing proposals for the A semester).
  • Caltech Faculty and Senior Research Associates may submit no more than three Keck proposals and/or any number of Palomar proposals.
  • Caltech Senior Research Fellows, Post-Doctoral Scholars and Senior Research Staff may submit any number of Palomar proposals but are limited to one Keck proposal per semester.
  • Caltech Graduate Students may apply for Palomar time only.

3.0 Proposal Format

  • Each proposal should cover a single, coherent, well-defined scientific topic.
  • Proposals consist of three components: Cover sheet, Discussion, Observing list (if available in advance, e.g. not TOO/transient). All proposals shall include these components.
  • A report of your observing history and bibliography (see below) is a required adjunct to your submitted proposal set.
  • If you submit two or more Keck proposals, the one representing your highest-priority shall be designated as Principal; all others are Secondary. Similarly, if you submit two or more proposals for the Palomar telescopes, your highest priority project shall be designated as Principal; all others are Secondary.
  • All CIT-COO telescope time proposals shall follow the 2019A proposal template available in either MS Word of LaTeX form (see also the supporting latexdefs.tex package).

3.1 Cover Sheets

  • Keck: Log into your Keck account at the Keck Observer Login Page. Fill in the required information. For guidance regarding the selection of acceptable runs, see the appendix below.
  • Palomar: Log into the appropriate Palomar cover sheet (see links at left) and fill in the required information.

3.2 Discussion & Figures

Using either the MS Word or LaTeX proposal template, provide a concise (see page limits, below) description of the project, explaining the scientific goals and methodology, and justifying the observing time and equipment requested in the present semester. Include citations to publications referenced in the discussion. New project proposals shall present an estimate of the total observing time required to complete the project; continuing project proposals shall summarize the status of previously obtained data and an updated estimate of the observing time needed to complete the project. The proposal template is structured to facilitate proposals responsive to these requirements; please fill out the template following (and replacing) the embedded instructions.

Page limits
[Definition: 1 page = One side of a sheet 8½ x 11 inches, with suitable margins. Type size = 11-point.]
DescriptionDiscussion & Figures
General Proposals (both Primary and Secondary) 6 pages plus observing list
Palomar - Large Project 8 pages plus observing list

3.3 Observing List

Provide a list of targets to be observed, including names, coordinates (in sexagesimal format), and apparent magnitudes. Observing lists do not count in the proposal page limit.

3.4 Submitting the Proposal

When finished, combine your cover sheet, discussion and observing list into a single pdf document (see note below) and attach it to an e-mail to brucato-[at] not later than .

If you do not receive confirmation of your proposal submission within 48 hours, contact brucato-[at] immediately.

4.0 Observing History and Bibliography

The Director and the Time Allocation Committee place a high premium on the effective use of telescope time and the timely publication of results derived from the observations. Accordingly, all proposers are required to submit an Observing History and Bibliography report as a separate document, distinct from any proposals. Your report shall consist of:

Observing History: List the observing time allocated to you for all projects in the last four semesters [2016A to 2018B inclusive] and summarize the status of each. Provide:
  1. Semester.
  2. Telescope and proposal number.
  3. Instrument(s) used.
  4. Number of nights allocated and the number of nights usable.
  5. For ToO projects, give a comprehensive list of the interrupts invoked, including for each the date, telescope, instrument and duration.
This report is important for all proposers, but particularly so for applicants who are requesting continuations of projects previously awarded time by the CIT TAC.

Bibliography: Provide a bibliography of your refereed papers based on Keck (or from observing time awarded through Keck trades) and/or Palomar data, published or submitted for publication during the last four semesters [2016A to 2018B, inclusive], even if you were not the principal investigator of the observing proposal(s).

Attach the report (as a pdf document) to an e-mail to brucato-[at] (not later than ).

5.0 General Notes

  • Date-Specific Observing is restricted to projects requiring observations at particular times (e.g., occultations, transits, critical phase coverage in a binary, etc.). Proposers requesting date-specific observations must check the Date-Specific box on the proposal cover sheet, and justify the date specificity (i.e. see the proposal template section 2.5). For Palomar, down-load the DS Supplement, fill in the required information and include it in your proposal as an addendum to the cover sheet.

5.1 Special Notes - Keck

  1. Only a single proposal is needed for a project involving both Keck I and Keck II.
  2. By June 2016 Keck SSC/CARA Board action there are policies in place for Time-Domain Astronomy (TDA) Cadence and Partnership Target of Opportunity (ToO) observation modes. These new policies lead directly to notes 5.1.3 and 5.1.4 below. Current TDA policies are being reviewed and may change soon.
  3. Partial nights (¾, ½, ¼) may be requested at Keck. Observers should be mindful that it may not always be possible to schedule partial night allocations.
  4. Following 5.1.2 above there are now five observing modes at Keck relevant for CIT proposers:
    1. "Classical" observing.
    2. CIT Internal ToO - Target of Opportunity interrupts of Caltech observer (see CIT TOO page).
    3. Partnership ToO - Target of Opportunity interrupts when the interrupted observer is from Caltech, University of California, University of Hawaii or NASA. See Partnership ToO Policy
    4. Cadenced observing. See Cadence Policy
    5. Snapshot observing (as a special, single-instance case of Cadence observing).
  5. For projects involving both Keck and Palomar, submit the Keck and Palomar cover sheets separately. The discussion and observing list need be attached only to the Keck cover sheet.
  6. For Keck instrument availability and special considerations see Keck Instrument Availability.
  7. NIRSPEC (NIRSPAO) will be unavailable in February & March to complete follow up work to the instrument upgrade.
  8. There is a one week shutdown on Keck I planned in June for repairs to be made on the azimuth journal, and is tentatively scheduled for the mid-month June bright time.
  9. NIRC2 will be unavailable for 3-5 weeks for a vector vortex coronagraph upgrade. This period of downtime will be scheduled to meet the scientific demands of the observing community and may begin in late March.
  10. Several AO upgrade projects will be occurring through the semester that will require short periods of AO downtime. These will generally be scheduled during timeframes of low AO demand during the semester.
  11. SUBARU exchange: The SUBARU-KECK exchange will continue as previous semesters with flexibility as to the number of nights available for exchange. The number of exchanged nights will be determined based on the demand from each community. Keck will offer LRIS, HIRES, OSIRIS, and MOSFIRE on Keck I, and DEIMOS, ESI, NIRSPEC/NIRSPAO, KCWI, NIRES, and NIRC2 on Keck II. Subaru will offer COMICS, FOCAS, HDS, MOIRCS, IRCS (with NGS/LGSAO188 elements), SCExAO, CHARIS, IRD (shared risk) and Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC). Note that FOCAS Integral Field Unit (IFU) mode will be available in the latter half of S19A in a shared-risk mode. Subaru may support half night allocations, but whole night allocations are preferred. For HSC programs, Subaru may support "queue" observing mode, if specified in the proposal. Although this mode is in shared-risk for Keck users in 19A (Subaru will try their best but cannot guarantee the completion or provide any compensation), queue-mode may allow more flexible allocation such as e.g. very short 0.25 night request. Please check the HSC queue mode website for more details. Please note that as earthquakes are frequently occurring every day since May 2018, there is always a risk of unavailability of Top Unit Exchange work throughout the semester for the sake of equipment and worker's safety.

5.2 Special Notes - Palomar

  1. Observers may request full or half nights for Hale/P200. Observers should be mindful that it may not always be possible to schedule partial night allocations.
  2. For projects involving more than one Palomar telescope, submit the appropriate cover sheet for each separately. The discussion, figures and observing list need be attached to only the cover sheet for the larger telescope.
  3. For Hale Telescope instruments, see Palomar Observer Information. Private and Semi-private instruments may be requested only with the prior approval of the instrument builder. Please include in the discussion a confirmation that appropriate arrangements have been made.
  4. DBSP, LFC, WaSP, WIRC and TripleSpec may be operated by remote observing. For additional information, see Cahill Remote Observing Facilities.
  5. At the 200-inch telescope, you may request instruments to be installed simultaneously at the prime focus and Cassegrain focus but you must fully justify the request in your proposal. Secondary instruments should be requested only if they are integral to the program and if there is a very high probability that they will be used during the observing run.
  6. Proposals for 200-inch time in support of Large Projects may be submitted. See Large Project Proposals for details.
  7. We presently anticipate significant P3K downtime (Aug -- Oct 2019) in 2019B. Potential investigators who study fall sources may wish to factor this downtime into their 2019A proposal plans.
  8. Palomar 60-inch Telescope - Proposal solicitation for P60 2019A observing time is deferred to a supplementary 2019A call to be announced later.
  9. Oschin (P48) Telescope - Proposal solicitation for P48 2019A observing time is deferred to a supplementary 2019A call to be announced later.

Note on Merging PDF Documents

Combine the cover sheet and discussion section (including the figures and observing list) of each proposal into a single pdf document. For information on merging pdf documents, see PDF File Merging

6.0 Instrumentation

6.1 Keck Instruments

Keck Telescope instrument information is available through the WMKO Keck Instrument Home Page. Supplementary information on specific instrument status is available at Keck Instrument Availability

6.2 200-inch Telescope Instruments

Instrumentation for P200 is summarized on the P200 Observer Page. If you propose to bring your own equipment to P200 please specify the appropriate focus code [Prime Focus (OE-PF), Cassegrain (OE-Cass w/o P3K), Cassegrain + P3K Base (OE-Cass w/ P3K)] on your cover sheet.

7.0 Appendix

7.1 Specifying Preferred Observing Runs

The system of P's and A's to designate preferred and acceptable runs (respectively), intended to take the guess-work out of scheduling, rests on two conditions: First, observers need to be as generous as possible in designating acceptable runs, since overly-constrictive selections make scheduling difficult and, in extreme cases, may even preclude the assignment of observing time to the project. A good approach would be to tag any observing run as Acceptable if the data can be obtained during that period. Second, the scheduler will not assign observing time in a run that has not been tagged by the observer with a P or an A. Should circumstances obtain that such assignment might be needed, the scheduler will discuss the situation with the observer before any exception to the rule is applied.

Putting all the P's and A's on a single line means you want the time scheduled in a single block, if possible. If you want the time distributed into two or more blocks, use a separate line for each block.

COO Proposal Call 2019A / v 2019A-0.1dev
Last updated: 29 August 2018 RJB/AFB