Proposal Format



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Palomar Observatory

Keck Observatory

Caltech Optical Observatories

Caltech Astronomy

California Institute of Technology

Call for Proposals 2015A

Proposals Due by 6:00 pm PDT Wednesday 01 October 2014

This call is closed and provided for reference only


  • Keck I and Keck II, with possible trades for SUBARU time.
  • Palomar 200-inch.
  • Palomar 60-inch (service observing only).
  • Palomar Oschin Telescope (service observing only).


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.
  • 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.

Proposal Format

  • Each proposal should cover a single, coherent, well-defined scientific topic.
  • If two or more Keck proposals are submitted, the one representing your highest-priority should be designated as Priority 1 or Principal; all others are Priority 2 or Secondary. Similarly, if two or more proposals are submitted for the Palomar telescopes, your highest priority project should be designated as Principal and all others as Secondary. Only one proposal for Keck time and only one proposal for 200-inch time may be designated as Principal. Proposal Principal/Secondary designations are made on the Keck and Palomar coversheets -- please make your priority intent clear for time allocation processing, and please note that different Principal/Secondary page limits apply (see below).
  • Proposals consist of four parts: Cover Sheet, Discussion, Figures, Observing List.
    1. Cover Sheets:
    2. Discussion: Provide a short (see page limits, below) description of the project, explaining the scientific goals and methodology, and justifying the time and equipment requested. Also include citations to publications referenced in the discussion. For new projects, provide an estimate of the total time required to complete the work; for continuing projects, give the status of previously obtained data and an estimate of the time needed to finish. For projects in support of an approved thesis, include an estimate of the total observing time required, the time already allocated and the status of the data already in hand. Explain any constraints that may affect scheduling.
    3. Figures: Collect all images, graphs, tables, etc. into a single section. N.B. Copies of the proposals sent to the TAC members will be printed in black-and-white format but the committee members will be able to access color versions in a secure on-line directory.
    4. Observing List: Provide a list of targets to be observed, including names, coordinates and magnitudes.
  • Page limits: 1 page = One side of a sheet 8½ x 11 inches, with suitable margins. Type size = 11- or 12-point.
  • DescriptionDiscussion FiguresObserving List
    Principal Proposal 3 pages 4 pages As needed
    Secondary Proposals 2 pages 4 pages As needed
    Palomar - Large Project 8 pages 4 pages As needed
  • When finished, combine your cover sheet with the Discussion, Figures and Observing List into a single pdf document (see note below). Check that the file is smaller that 1M and attach it to an e-mail to brucato-[at]-astro.caltech.edu not later than 6:00 pm PDT Wednesday 01 October 2014. The subject line of the message should be in the following form: [your last name]-[Telescope]-[A sequence number to distinquish it from others others submitted for the same telescope]. Examples: Jones-Keck-1 or Jones-P200-2.

Special Notes


  • For projects requiring date-specific scheduling: (a) Be sure to check the appropriate box on the cover sheet and (b) include in the Figures section of the proposal a table of the events to be observed. Give the name of the object, its coordinates, and the date and time (Pacific Time for Palomar, Hawaii Time for Keck) of the event. [Remember: Telescope time to observe an event occurring - for example - at 02h PDT on 6 August has to be scheduled for the night of 5 August.]
  • For projects involving both Keck and Palomar, submit the Keck and Palomar cover sheets separately. The discussion, figures and observing list need only be attached to the Keck cover sheet.
  • Requests for half nights will be accommodated within the constraints set by the scheduling. When requesting half nights, specify in the proposal discussion whether first-half or second-half time is required.
  • Target of Opportunity projects may be requested for Keck and/or the 200-inch. See ToO Policy for details.


  • For Keck instrument availability in 2015A, go to Keck Instrument Availability.
  • Only a single proposal (cover sheet, discussion, figures and observing list) is needed for a project involving both Keck I and Keck II.
  • LGS observing at Keck is critically dependent on conditions and you are advised to have a contingency plan should LGS be unavailable. See Policy on Backup Instruments During LGS-AO Runs.
  • NIRC2 will have a 3 to 5 week service mission beginning in mid-February and will not be available during that period.
  • DEIMOS will begin a service mission in January 2015, with completion expected in mid-February 2015. The plan is to have DEIMOS available for the February dark run beginning on 14 February.
  • AO Upgrades: On Keck I: The new near-IR tip/tilt system, TRICK, is being commissioned in 2014B and probably will be available on a Shared-Risk basis during 2015A. Proposals should not rely on its availability, however. On Keck II, the new Center-launch Laser System, CLS, is expected to be activated sometime during the 2014B semester, providing the Keck II AO system with a smaller laser spot size.
  • A limited amount of Keck time may be traded for time at SUBARU in 2015A. Subaru will offer: Suprime-Cam [dark runs in February, April and June]; FOCAS; HDS; MOIRCS (possible limited availability); IRCS (with NGS/LGSAO188 elements); FMOS; COMICS; Hyper Suprime-Cam [Shared-Risk basis, 3 nights maximum for all Keck users, dark runs in March, May and July].
  • NIRES may be available for science observing on Keck II in 2015A on a Share-Risk basis. Proposals calling for its use, however, must include in the Discussion a section entitled Back-up Program naming the substitute instrument (either NIRSPEC or NIRC2-NGS) to be used should NIRES be unavailable. If the back-up program differs substatially from the main-line proposal, briefly describe its scientific goals and add a list of the back-up targets to be observed.


  • For projects involving more than one Palomar telescope, submit the appropriate cover sheet for each separately. The discussion, figures and observing list need only be attached to the cover sheet for the larger telescope.
  • For Hale Telescope instruments, see the table below. Private and Semi-private instruments may be requested only with the prior approval of the instrument builder.
  • DBSP, LFC, WIRC and TripleSpec may be operated by remote observing. For additional information, see Cahill Remote Observing Facilities.
  • The Palm 3000 system (P3K) will be in regular operational status with the PHARO facility near-IR camera in 2015A. P3K will remain on Shared-Risk status with the SWIFT instrument. Interested proposers should see the 200-inch Instrument Table below, and the P3K Observers information summary.
  • P3K and the East Arm Echelle cannot be scheduled simultaneously (issues with telescope balance).
  • Observers using the 200-inch telescope may request instruments to be installed simultaneously at the prime focus, Cassegrain focus and/or the east-arm focus (East Arm Echelle only). The use of a secondary instrument must be identified on the cover sheet and justified in the proposal discussion. On the Cover Sheet, select the principal instrument to be used from the drop-down lists on the Observing Time Preferences table and specify the secondary instrument in the space provided under Additional Information. 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.
  • Proposals for 200-inch time in support of Large Projects may be submitted. See Large Project Proposals for details.
  • Palomar 60-inch Telescope - Up to 20% of the time at the 60-inch may be allocated to Caltech observers for general research. Please see P60 Observers Information for information on planning P60 observations. In addition to the facility CCD camera, the Robo-AO high-resolution imaging system will be offered on a shared-risk and semi-private basis (interested proposers must contact Reed Riddle riddle@astro.caltech.edu). Both the P60 facility camera (CCD Cam) and Robo-AO operate only in service observing mode. Caltech observers may request observing time using the SED Machine, which will be available on a Shared-Risk basis.
  • Oschin (P48) Telescope - Up to 20% of the time at the Oschin/P48 Telescope (with the MOSAIC camera) may be allocated to Caltech observers for general research. Please see P48 Observers Information for information on planning P48 observations. Note P48 operates in service observing only.

Note on Merging PDF Documents

To combine the cover sheet and discussion section of a proposal, use the full version of Acrobat (Acrobat Reader will not work) or the joinpdf program on the AY Unix computers. Also see www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar/mergepdf.html.

Proposal pdf documents are typically 500K to 1M in size. Files larger than 1M are cumbersome to handle, so, if your proposal is larger than 1M, please try reducing the resolution of your images.

Observing History and Bibliography

The Director and the Time Allocation Committee place a high premium on the effective use of telescope time and the prompt publication of results derived from the observations. Accordingly, your report accounting for your previous observing time and your publications constitutes an important adjunct to your proposals. Submit this report as a single, two-part document consisting of:

  1. Observing History: List the observing time allocated to you for all projects in the last eight semesters [2011A to 2014B, inclusive] and summarize the status of each. Provide:
    • Semester.
    • Telescope and proposal number.
    • Instrument(s) used.
    • Number of nights allocated and the number of nights useable.
    • For ToO projects, give a comprehensive list of the interrupts invoked, including for each the date, telescope, instrument and duration.
  2. 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 eight semesters [2011A to 2014B, inclusive], even if you were not the principal investigator of the observing proposals.

Attach the report (as a pdf document) to an e-mail to brucato@astro.caltech.edu (not later than 6:00 pm PDT Wednesday 01 October 2014 with the subject line in the following form: [your last name]-History. (For example: Jones-History)

Submit this report as a completely separate document. Do not include it in your proposal(s).


Keck Instruments

Instrumentation for the Keck Telescopes is summarized on the WMKO Keck Instrument Page.

200-inch Telescope Instruments

Instrumentation for P200 is summarized on the P200 Instrument Page. If you propose to bring your own equipment to P200 please specify the appropriate focus code [Prime Focus (OE-PF), Cassegrain (OE-Cass), Cassegrain + P3K Base (OE-Cass+P3K), or Coudé (OE-Coudé)] on your P200 coversheet.

COO Proposal Call 2015A / v 1.01 dev
Last updated: 22 August 2014 RJB/AFB/ACM