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 (i.e. spring quarter inclusive for B semester/fall-submitted observing proposals).
  • 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 Primary; all others are Secondary. Similarly, if you submit two or more proposals for the Palomar telescopes, your highest priority project shall be designated as Primary; all others are Secondary.
  • All Caltech-COO telescope time proposals shall follow the proposal template available in either MS Word, Google doc, or LaTeX form (see also the supporting latexdefs.tex package).
  • IMPORTANT: On advice from the Time Allocation Committee, P200 Large Project proposals may no longer be combined with Keck proposals, but must instead be separate, distinct proposal submissions. Please see the updated Palomar Large Project Proposals policy.
  • IMPORTANT: On advice from the Time Allocation Committee, TOO proposers with previous TOO allocations must include a report on allocated and activated TOO triggers over the previous two semesters in new TOO observing proposals. Please see (section 2.7 in) the MS Word, Google doc, and LaTeX proposal template forms.
  • IMPORTANT: On advice from the Time Allocation Committee, the page limit for general proposals has decreased. Please note these changes in the MS Word, Google doc, and LaTeX proposal template forms and table 3.2 below.

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, Google doc, 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
DescriptionDiscussion & Figures
General Proposals (both Primary and Secondary) 5.5 pages plus observing list
Palomar - Large Project 8 pages plus observing list
Definition: 1 page = One side of a sheet 8½ × 11 inches, with suitable margins. Type size = 11- or 12-point.

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 [ 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.
This report is important for all proposers, but particularly so for applicants who are requesting continuations of projects previously awarded time by the Caltech 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 [ inclusive], even if you were not the principal investigator of the observing proposal(s).

Submit (a PDF rendering of) the Observing History/Bibliography report in separate e-mail (i.e. not integrated with a proposal) to brucato-[at] by the proposal due date ( ).

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, download 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 November 2018 Keck SSC/CARA Board/WMKO Director action there are new policies in place for Time-Domain Astronomy (TDA). Please find these updated policies at the WMKO Cadence & TOO Policy webpage.
  3. Partial nights (¾, ½, ¼) may be requested at Keck, however project advocates should be mindful that it is more difficult (and may not always be possible) to schedule partial night allocations. NEW: Anticipating potential 2021B COVID impacts, WMKO is specifically discouraging partial-night allocations and encouraging whole-night allocations from advocates.
  4. Following 5.1.2 above there are now five observing modes at Keck relevant for Caltech proposers:
    1. "Classical" observing.
    2. Caltech Internal ToO - Target of Opportunity interrupts of Caltech observer (see Caltech TOO page). This is the default ToO request status unless otherwise specified by the proposer [ToO proposers should refer to the proposal template section 2.6].
    3. Partnership ToO - Target of Opportunity interrupts of all Keck partners. See Partnership ToO Policy. Proposers for Keck Partnership ToOs must specify their requested number of Partnership ToOs clearly in their proposal in the proposal template section 2.6. [Please note the maximum number of Partnership ToO interrupts available to Caltech is seven (7) per semester.]
    4. Cadenced observing. See Cadence Policy.
    5. (Date-)specific observing.
  5. For projects involving both Keck and standard Palomar requests, submit the Keck and Palomar cover sheets separately. The discussion and observing list need be attached only to the Keck cover sheet. IMPORTANT: However, please note that P200 Large Project proposals may no longer be combined with Keck proposals, but must instead be separate, distinct proposal submissions. Please see the updated Palomar Large Project Proposals policy.
  6. There are several telescope infrastructure and instrument-specific status notes for semester . Proposers are strongly encouraged to consult the Keck Instrument Availability webpage for authoritative status information.
  7. SUBARU exchange: The SUBARU-KECK exchange will continue as previous semesters with flexibility as to the number of nights available for exchange. The final number will be determined based on the demand from each community. Please see the Keck Instrument Availability webpage for pertinent Subaru instrument information in semester .
  8. In accordance with the Caltech and Swinburne collaborative agreement for Keck, the COO and SUT Directors have agreed to set aside, between them, 1-2 nights each semester from their Director’s allocation to support highly ranked Caltech-SUT collaborative proposals. These proposals should seek to develop new and innovative scientific collaborations esp. those with long term strategic potential to have high scientific impact and/or increase the research capabilities of each organization. These proposals should seek to meet the following additional selection criteria:
    1. High-risk high-reward pilot proposals for new science,
    2. pilot for strategic collaborative project
    3. significant ongoing collaboration potential
    4. evidence of existing significant ongoing collaboration
    Applicants may use up to 0.5 additional pages in the proposal template (science narrative section) to discuss how their proposal meets all or any of these selection criteria. The Directors will request input from their respective TACs on CIT-SUT collaborative proposal time allocations. The final decision on these allocations will be made by the COO and SUT Directors jointly. The Directors reserve the right not to make an allocation if proposals do not reach a high enough bar.

5.2 Special Notes - Palomar

  1. Proposers may request full or half nights on Hale/P200. Project advocates should be mindful that it is more difficult (and may not always be possible) to schedule partial night allocations.
  2. For Hale Telescope instruments, see Palomar Observer Information. Private and Semi-private instruments may be requested only with prior approval of the instrument builder. Please include in the discussion a confirmation that appropriate arrangements have been made.
  3. DBSP, WaSP, WIRC, CHIMERA, and TripleSpec may be operated by remote observing. Further, the PHARO infrared imaging camera used with the facility adaptive optics system is being used remotely during the pandemic on a trial basis. For additional information, see Cahill Remote Observing Facilities.
  4. At the 200-inch telescope, proposers may request instruments to be installed simultaneously at the prime focus and Cassegrain focus but project advocates must justify the request in the proposal. Secondary instruments should be requested only if they are integral to the program and if there is a high probability that they will be used during requested observing runs.
  5. Proposals for 200-inch time in support of Large Projects may be submitted. See Large Project Proposals for details.
  6. IMPORTANT: P200 Large Project proposals may no longer be combined with Keck proposals, but must instead be separate, distinct proposal submissions.
  7. Palomar 60-inch Telescope - Proposal solicitation for P60 observing time is deferred to a supplementary call to be announced later.
  8. Oschin (P48) Telescope - Proposal solicitation for P48 observing time is deferred to a supplementary call to be announced later.
  9. IMPORTANT: As of this writing (February 2021) Palomar and the Hale Telescope continue to operate under limited operations guidelines because of the global pandemic. In particular astronomers are not permitted on-site at Palomar or Keck and must execute all observations by Remote Observing, and available instrumentation may be limited.

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

P200 instrumentation 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.

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COO Proposal Call / v 2021B-rc2
Last updated: 15 March 2021 JXZ/RJB/AFB/ACM