Caltech Optical Observatories

Call for Proposals - 2009A

This Call is CLOSED

Proposals Were Due Friday 26 September 2008

This Material Provided For Reference Only

Proposals for observing time in the first semester of 2009 will be accepted from the Caltech Faculty, Research Fellows, Research Associates, Post-Doctoral Scholars, Senior Research Staff and Students. Observing time will be allocated at the following telescopes:

Due date for proposals: Friday, September 26, 2008

To receive up-dates to this Call for Proposals, please send an e-mail to with the word Updates in the subject line.


All Caltech Faculty, Senior Research Associates, Senior Research Fellows, Post Doctoral Scholars and Senior Research Staff are eligible to apply for observing time within Caltech allocations at the Keck Observatory and the Palomar Observatory. There is no restriction on the number of Palomar proposals that a researcher may submit. Similarly, Faculty and Senior Research Associates may submit any number of Keck proposals but Senior Research Fellows, Post Doctoral Scholars and Senior Research Staff are limited to one Keck proposal (as principal investigator) per semester. Students may apply for time at the 200-inch or 60-inch telescopes only. Applicants must be in residence at Caltech at the time proposals are submitted.

Proposal Format

Each proposal should cover a single, coherent, well-defined scientific topic (do not submit a collection of unrelated projects as a single proposal) and should contain the following elements:

In addition, you should submit a single, two-part document in support of your proposals.

Attach your report (as a pdf document) to an e-mail to (not later than 5:00 p.m., Friday, September 26, 2008) with the subject line in the following form: [your last name]-History. (For example: Kepler-History)

If your project involves the use of more than one telescope, you must submit separate cover sheets (which means separate emails) for each telescope. The descriptive material need be attached only to the proposal for the primary telescope. Important: Do not bury the cover sheets for the secondary telescopes within the primary proposal.

Within two days, you will receive an e-mail confirming receipt of each of your proposals. If you do not receive this confirmation, contact Robert Brucato at immediately.

Target of Opportunity Projects

The Caltech Optical Observatories supports its Target of Opportunity (ToO) program to enable its researchers to acquire data on unexpected, transient events by allowing interruption of regularly scheduled programs of Caltech observers at the Keck telescopes and the Palomar 200-inch telescope. In such cases, the observer at the telescope is obliged to set aside his or her program and make specific observations on behalf of the ToO researcher.

Details of the ToO Program:

To Apply for Keck Time

Follow the procedures at Applying for Keck Telescope Time.

Keck is using an on-line system that features a password system to allow observers to retrieve and modify their cover sheets. With this system, you will be able to

Keck will send announcements and account information to all observers with e-mail addresses within the Keck database; new observers or those who do not receive account information may request an account from the cover sheet page.

When finished, combine your cover sheet, the discussion and observing list into a single .pdf document (see note below) and attach it to an e-mail to (not later than 5:00 p.m., Friday, September 26, 2008). The subject line of the message should be in the following form: [your last name]-[Telescope]-[Your Proposal Number] For example: Kepler-Keck2-02

Important: One proposal per e-mail

The Keck web site provides numerous useful links to information you will need to prepare your proposal, including instrument availability, instrument specifications, etc. Notwithstanding statements to the contrary in the Keck application information, requests should be for full nights only. The Caltech TAC will not approve split- or shared-night proposals.

Special Notes:

To Apply for Palomar Time

Fill in the on-line cover sheet at Palomar Cover Sheet. When finished, combine your cover sheet, the discussion and observing list into a single .pdf document (see note below) and attach it to an e-mail to (not later than 5:00 p.m., Friday, September 26, 2008). The subject line of the message should be in the following form: [your last name]-[Telescope]-[Your Proposal Number]. For example: Kepler-P200-02 .

Important: One proposal per e-mail

Special Notes:

200-inch Telescope - Large Projects

The Director and the Observatory Council wish to encourage the large scale observing projects by individuals or teams of researchers that take advantage of the ability of the COO administration to make long-term commitments of observing time to utilize the facilities at the 200-inch telescope to attack problems that would be difficult to engage within the constraints of semi-annual allocations. Observing time granted for Large Projects will be distributed through the semester. If time is requested in subsequent semesters, the TAC may make provisional allocations. Requests to continue Large Projects should include a status report in the discussion. Large Projects already allocated time in two semesters must be completely resubmitted with a comprehensive status report if additional time is sought.

The PIs of Large Projects are obliged to contribute, intellectually and financially, to the COO's effort in support of Education and Public Outreach. The proposal discussion must include a clear statement of the provisions to satisfy this obligation.

Large Projects should:

200-inch Telescope - Instruments

The following table lists the instruments available for use in 2008B.

Prime Focus Wide Field IR Camera WIRC -
Large Format Camera LFC -
COSMIC - Direct Imaging COSMIC/D -
COSMIC - Re-imaging COSMIC/R -
Own Equipment - Prime Focus OE-PF Specify
Cassegrain Adaptive Optics/PHARO - Natural Guide Star AO/PHARO-NGS -
SWIFT/non-AO SWIFT 1. Shared Risk observing after 1 Oct.

2. Attached to the AO bench but AO not activated.

Adaptive Optics/SWIFT-NGS AO/SWIFT-NGS 1. Shared Risk observing after 1 Oct.
Double Spectrograph DBSP -
Double Spectrograph/Polarimeter DBSPp -
TripleSpec TSPEC -
SpectroCam-10 SC-10 -
Own Equipment - Cassegrain OE-Cass Specify
East Arm East Arm Echelle EAEchelle -

The private instruments listed in the following table may be requested by prior agreement with the contact named.

Instrument Contact
STEPS Stuart Shaklan
IR Spectrograph Keith Matthews
IR Camera Keith Matthews
PIFS Keith Matthews
AO/P1640-NGS Lynne Hillenbrand

60-inch Telescope

The Palomar 60-inch telescope is now fully automated and may be used only with the dedicated 2Kx2K CCD camera. Twenty percent of the science time is available for general observing by Caltech researchers. Successful applicants for 60-inch time will be asked to coordinate their programs with Shri Kulkarni and Fiona Harrison, who will manage the overall queue schedule. Observing targets will be scheduled by the software: a priori sequencing or specific time windows can be accommodated only in extraordinary circumstances; contact Fiona Harrison for details.

The Oschin Telescope

The Oschin Telescope will be out of service during the early part of the semester for installation of the MOSAIC camera. When operations resume, twenty percent of the science time at the Oschin Telescope will be available Caltech observers. The TAC will award observing time, contingent on the operational status of the telescope.

Shared-Risk Observing

Shared Risk Observing is a transitional phase between the final engineering tests of a new instrument and its use for general observing. This scheduling plan has the twofold goals of (a) allowing researchers to use the instrument to acquire scientific data for their programs and (b) allowing the instrument builders to check its performance in an operational environment. Observers using an instrument on a Shared Risk basis do so with the understanding that the builders may be present during the run and may need: The instrument builders, on the other hand, will endeavor to keep such interruptions to a minimum, reserving their work to the daytime hours as much as possible.

The Time Allocation Process

Proposals are evaluated by members of the TAC based on:

A few days after close of applications, PIs will receive spreadsheet summaries of all the applications received to check for errors or omissions in the entries for their proposals.

Starting with the highest ranked project, nights will be assigned according to the recommendations of the TAC and the applicant's stated preferences. If all available nights in the applicant's preferred and acceptable observing runs have been allocated to proposals with higher grades, no time will be assigned. By this process, it is conceivable that a proposal with restrictive dates will receive no time, while time may be allocated to a less restrictive proposal with a lower grade. In general, it is of benefit to the applicant to maximize the allocation possibilities, by entering Acceptable whenever possible allowing for target position and season.

For Keck projects, the successful proposals and the allocations recommended by the TAC will be passed to CARA for scheduling. For the Palomar 200, the Caltech, JPL and Cornell allocations will be merged to achieve the final schedule.

Schedules should be available in early December, at which time the Director will send a memo to each PI summarizing the TAC results, allocations, and substantive comments made during the TAC discussions.

Note on Merging pdf Documents

To merge the two separate PDF files for your cover page and scientific justification, you will need to use a tool capable of writing PDF files. Acrobat Reader will not work, but the full version of Acrobat (to which Caltech has a site license) can be used. (In Acrobat 8, select "Combine Files" from the "File" menu.) Our Unix machines also contain the program "joinpdf", which can be used to combine two PDF files. For more details and links to other software for combining PDF files, see the web page:

27 August 2008 - RJB