General Information for

NASA Allocated Observing Time on the Keck Telescopes

Proposals for the 2019B observing semester are due Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 4 pm PDT.

Key Dates

Thursday, February 14 by end of day: deadline for non-binding Notices of Intent to submit a Key Strategic Mission Support Proposal for 2019B.

Thursday, February 28: deadline to request letters from NASA HQ for Key Strategic Mission Support and General Mission Support proposals.

Thursday, March 14 by 4 pm PDT: deadline for proposal submission.

Highlights for 2019B

  1. NASA is soliciting large Key Strategic Mission Support (KSMS) to start in observing semester 2019B.

  2. Required but non-binding Notices of Intent (NOIs) to submit a Key Strategic Mission Support (KSMS) proposal must be emailed to NExScI by February 14, end of day. The PI name and proposal title should not change once the NOI is submitted.

  3. Letters of support for general mission support proposals and for the Key Strategic Mission Support proposals must be requested from NASA HQ by February 28, two weeks before the submission deadline.

  4. Time Domain Astronomy: Observers can propose for both Time Domain Astronomy (cadence) and Target of Opportunity (ToO) programs. Note that there have been important updates to the Target of Opportunity Policy for 2019B to take into account the scientifically compelling need for ToO triggers to follow-up on gravitational wave events detected with LIGO. The most significant change is that programs scheduled in increments of 1/2 nights or smaller are now by default considered interruptible by a ToO observation, which can last up to 1 hour. As usual, the TAC may recommend a program to be uninterruptible if a very strong argument is presented by the PI. The process for initiating a ToO has also been clarified.

  5. If you are considering submitting a ToO or cadence observing proposal, see Section IV for important details and also read the complete Target of Opportunity Policy and Time Domain Astronomy (cadence) policies. These policies are not applicable to Subaru Exchange time.

  6. Twilight Observing: Keck now has a program for acquiring snapshot observations in morning twilight. The program is designed to accommodate extra infrared observations during normally scheduled visible observations, when those observations end early and surrender the last portion of the night. Each institution will be limited to one (1) program per partner institution per semester. The programs designed for longer term (> 1-2 years) will be given priority. Click here for more information.

  7. HIRES PRV Configuation: HIRES is available in a dedicated precision radial velocity (PRV) configuration. HIRES data collected in the prescribed HIRES PRV configuration are compatible with the public radial velocity pipeline processing environment available at NExScI. Observers wishing to use the HIRES PRV configuration should read Section Ib.iv for important considerations.

  8. Keck Observatory Archive (KOA) Check: In an effort to use the NASA time on the Keck telescopes as efficiently as possible, we ask proposers to verify to the TAC that their science goals cannot be met through public observations already in the Keck Observatory Archive. To accomplish this, the PI must enter text into a box on the submission page explaining why the data in KOA are not sufficient to meet their science goals.

  9. For information on strategic grading please refer to the 2014 NASA Science Plan.

  10. Special notes and considerations for the Keck instruments are available on the WMKO instrument page with some briefly summarized below.
    • NIRSPEC: Nirspec (Nirspao) will be out of service for a one month time period, which will be scheduled to meet the needs of the observing community. Some proposals may be moved into acceptable time frames to accommodate this service.

    • OSIRIS: OSIRIS-NGS will be unavailable during the month of November as it undergoes a service mission for the imager detector, and will return to service in early December. OSIRIS-LGS will be unavailable from November - January.

    • K1 LGS: Keck 1 LGS will be unavailable from November through January for installation and commissioning of a new laser.
    • SUBARU exchange: There are a significant number of facility and instrument related considerations for Subaru Observatory in 2019B. Please refer to the WMKO instrument page for complete details.
      Re-coating of the IR secondary mirror (IRM2) is planned in 2019 November, and observations using IRM2 (relevant for COMICS, IRCS, IRD, SCExAO, CHARIS, and VAMPIRES) will not be possible during this month.

      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 community demand. 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).

      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 due to frequent earthquakes, the Top Unit Exchange may be unavailable throughout the semester for the sake of equipment and worker's safety.

    Table of Contents

I. Guidelines for Allocation of NASA Keck Telescope Time

NASA announces a call for proposals to use its share of observing time at the W. M. Keck Observatory. This call for semester 2019B (August 1, 2019 - January 31, 2020) will allocate 45.5 nights of observing, with planned allocations of 22.5 nights on Keck 1 and 23 nights on Keck 2, distributed evenly across dark, grey, and bright time. Typical over subscription rates range from 3:1 to 5:1.

Proposals are due on Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 4pm PDT and should be submitted via the online submission page (link available in mid-Feb.). See Section VII for details of the application procedures.

Ia. Strategic Use of NASA Keck Time

NASA intends the use of its time allocation on the Keck telescopes to be highly strategic in support of on-going missions and/or high priority, long-term science goals as described in the 2014 NASA Science Plan.

The scientific areas in which proposals are solicited are:

  1. Investigations in support of Exoplanet Exploration (ExE) science goals and missions
  2. Investigations in support of Cosmic Origins (COR) science goals and missions
  3. Investigations in support of Physics of the Cosmos (PCOS) science goals and missions
  4. Investigations of our own Solar System (SS) science goals and missions

Within these science areas, two types of proposals for NASA Keck observing time will be accepted:

  1. Key Strategic Misson Support proposals (See Section IIa )
  2. General Mission Support proposals (See Section IIb )
  3. General observing time proposals

The primary goal of missions within the Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP) is to discover and characterize planetary systems and Earth-like planets around nearby stars. Cosmic Origins (COR) Science comprises projects that study how stars and galaxies came into being, how they evolve, and ultimately how they end their lives. Physics of the Cosmos (PCOS) projects explore the most extreme physical conditions of the universe, from black holes to dark energy. PCOS topics include cosmology, high-energy astrophysics and fundamental physics. Solar System (SS) programs involve studies of objects in our own solar system. Proposals may be reassigned to a different science area if deemed appropriate.

Proposers are encouraged to consider compelling planetary science investigations. Many of these objects are possible future mission targets as outlined in the most recent planetary decadal survey. Proposers should identify how the observations contribute to the body of scientific knowledge needed to help refine objectives of future missions and aid in the understanding of the origin or evolution of the targeted body. Observations should be of lasting importance to the broad planetary community

Proposers should base their science case in terms of strategic relevance toward achieving one or more of NASA's goals for the Exoplanet Exploration, Cosmic Origins, Physics of the Cosmos, or Solar System programs, as described in the 2014 NASA Science Plan. Gradations of strategic relevance are listed below in order of highest to lowest relevance. In the "NASA Strategic Relevance" section on the cover page of your application, please note the level your program matches, and give evidence for how it matches that level.

  • This program is critical to support NASA Missions or programs, e.g. in support of approved NASA space observations that enable the mission to achieve its Level 1 Requirements;
  • This program adds significant value to, or enhances, existing NASA data/missions/facilities by, for example, carrying out a redshift survey for objects detected by HST or Spitzer imaging, or validating and characterizing targets important for planning future observations (e.g. JWST target selection), or provides data which directly addresses a NASA strategic goal;
  • This program generically supports NASA's broader science goals as described in the NASA Science Plan.

General Observing programs requiring many nights of Keck time over multiple semesters (up to 4 semesters) may be submitted, but must explicitly and strongly justify their strategic connection to the stated goals. Multi-semester proposals are further discussed in Section III below.

Within these broad guidelines, the allocation of time will be based on scientific merit, strategic importance, availability of resources, and the uniqueness of Keck's capabilities for the particular investigation. All proposals for NASA Keck time will be evaluated by scientists comprising the NASA Keck Telescope Allocation Committee (NASA Keck TAC). The TAC process will be administered by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI). In recognition of the science communities that the NASA Keck time is expected to serve, TAC members are selected to assure balanced expertise in the areas of exoplanets, objects in our solar system, and in support of NASA's Cosmic Origins and Physics of the Cosmos goals. NASA's solicitation of proposals and their evaluation by the NASA Keck TAC will be phased so as to provide the evaluation and ranking of proposals needed to meet the telescope scheduling requirements set by the Director of the Keck Observatory.

Ib. Applying for Observing Time

All proposals for NASA Keck time must comply with the following criteria.

Ib.i Science and Technical Case

Proposals received by the application deadline will be reviewed and ranked by the NASA Keck TAC. The TAC will then submit their recommendations to the selecting official, the NExScI Executive Director, for final selection. NExScI will coordinate the final selections with WMKO for scheduling.

The scientific case for observing time should establish three things:

  1. Outline the scientific question(s) toward whose solution the observations are requested, and place these questions in the larger scientific context.
  2. Show how the measurements requested will be used to illuminate these questions.
  3. Demonstrate how the proposed science fits into NASA's strategic goals for its Keck time as listed above. (Note that a numerical grade will be assigned for strategic relevance.)

The technical case should demonstrate that the proposed measurements are technically feasible, given the performance of the proposed instrument(s), in the time requested, and that the proposal team has the requisite expertise to make the observations and reduce the data in a timely manner. Mission Support proposals must include additional supporting materials as described here.

Specific points that must be addressed include:

  • How the proposed observations relate to the applicant's previous work and to other work in the field.
  • Why the Keck Observatory is essential for the proposed observations.
  • The required spatial, spectral, and temporal range and resolution.
  • Estimates of the signal-to-noise required and expected, and justification for the number of nights requested for the entire program.
  • If new or unusual techniques are to be used, make clear how observations and calibrations will be obtained.
  • Brief description of the status of large telescope time that has been awarded during the past 2 years, such as progress with data reduction and publications.
  • Access to Keck telescopes through other institutions for this or related programs in past 2 years.
  • Any other information that may assist the TAC in evaluating the scientific merits of the proposal and its suitability for the Keck Telescopes.
  • All applications must include a complete and well-justified target list with sufficient information (magnitudes, coordinates) to determine scheduling within the semester. Applications without such lists will be rejected. In the case of ToO targets or sources being drawn from on-going surveys (e.g. K2), a description of the nature and location of the potential targets must be provided in sufficient detail for the TAC to make a thorough review.

The proposal should be aimed at someone who is not a specialist in the particular area of astronomy under study. A specific scientific case with a connection to the bigger picture, rather than a broad general one, is usually more successful.

Ib.ii NASA Keck Access

The opportunity to propose as Principal Investigators (PIs) for the NASA time on the Keck Telescopes is open to all U.S.-based astronomers ("U.S.-based astronomers" have their principal affiliation at a U.S. institution).

Proposals from PIs, or any Co-Is, who have access to the Keck telescopes through other partners (the University of California, Caltech, Yale, Keck Observatory, Swinburne, and the University of Hawaii) are required to indicate specifically how they are using any other Keck telescope time they have been awarded within the last two years for the proposed project and why their research requires time beyond the allocations available through their institution(s).

The TAC may use access to non-NASA Keck time as a factor in determining the final grades and rankings of the proposals. For example, the ability to achieve the science objectives with and without NASA time could be either a positive or a negative factor. If NASA time provides only a small fraction (<< 50%) of the observing time needed to complete a project, the TAC might conclude that NASA time is not crucial to the completion of scientific goals and the proposal may receive a lower ranking in comparison to a proposal which completes its goals within the NASA allocation. However, if the PI can leverage access to NASA and non-NASA time to address science goals aligned with NASA's strategic goals that could not be addressed with NASA time alone, the proposal could receive a higher ranking. In the case of two proposals ranked equally on scientific and technical merit, the TAC might use access to additional Keck time as one of the factors in determining the final ranking. Other factors that the TAC may use are listed below in the specific points that proposals must address.

Ib.iii KOA Check

In order to use the NASA time on the Keck telescopes as efficiently as possible we ask proposers to verify to the TAC that their science goals cannot be met through public observations already in the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA). To do this, the PI must enter text into a box on the submission page explaining why the data contained in KOA are not sufficient to meet their science goals.

Reasons why additional or different data are needed could be related to, but are not limited to, the cadence, timing, or depth of the archived observations, or the wavelength range or observation mode in which the data were taken. PIs who are proposing solar system or other target observations in order to investigate changes over time, can state this without checking the archive. Proposers with large survey programs should describe KOA results for a representative sample of their targets.

To see what data are contained in KOA, please use this link and enter your target list according to the directions.

Ib.iv HIRES PRV Configuration

HIRES is available in a dedicated precision radial velocity (PRV) configuration. HIRES data collected in this prescribed HIRES-PRV configuration will be compatible with the public radial velocity pipeline processing environment available at NExScI which will produce wavelength-calibrated 1D spectra and time-series of relative PRVs.

There are several important considerations for observers wishing to utilize the HIRES PRV configuration; only data collected in the specified HIRES-PRV configuration and data collected according to the recommendations summarized below can be processed properly within the NExScI HIRES processing environment.

  • The echelle and cross disperser angles must be set at specific angles as part of the HIRES-PRV afternoon setup and must not be changed during the night.
  • A minimum data set per target must be acquired before any PRVs can be determined:
    • A minimum of 3 PRV observations with the iodine cell inserted for a given target are required. The minimum signal-to-noise ratio per pixel for each of these observations must be at least 70 with the optimal SNR being 200.
    • One high SNR (at least 100 per pixel) template observation of the target with the iodine cell removed from the optical path. The optimal SNR for the iodine-out template is 2x the typical iodine-in observation. Several consecutive observations may be stacked to increase the SNR.
    • Each iodine-out template observation must be bracketed by 2-5 exposures of bright, rapidly-rotating B stars with the iodine cell in for calibration. These stars should be as near as possible on the sky to the target star.
  • Individual exposure times should be no longer than 1 hour and iodine-out template observations should span no more than 1.5 hours.
  • Observers new to the HIRES-PRV configuration should treat this configuration as a "new" instrument.

Full documentation of the instrumental setup for the HIRES PRV configuration will be available prior to start of the observing semester. Additional questions regarding the HIRES PRV configuration or the NExScI PRV pipeline may be directed to Dr. David Ciardi at NExScI.

II. Proposals in Support of NASA Space Missions

IIa. Key Strategic Mission Support (KSMS) Proposals

In 2019B, NASA is soliciting proposals for large Key Strategic Mission Support programs. These proposals must directly support NASA mission science goals, and not just be larger versions of general science programs. Eligible KSMS science areas include both astrophysics and solar system/planetary science programs. Abstracts of the successful KSMS proposals from 2018A and 2016A can be read here.

We anticipate the next call for KSMS projects will be for observing semester 2021B.

IIa.i. Eligibility and Requirements for KSMS Proposals

Proposed projects may support past, present, and/or future missions with the exception of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Since the JWST launch is now scheduled for March 2021, proposals for this mission are NOT eligible for KSMS status; however, PIs interested in precursor or early follow-up observations for the JWST mission CAN submit general Mission Support proposals and general observing proposals in semesters 2019B-2021A.

A KSMS project must request at least 10 nights but no more than 60 nights, spanning 2 - 4 semesters (i.e. 5 - 15 nights per semester) on Keck 1 and/or Keck 2. Between 10 - 60 nights total over two years (2019B-2021A) will be allocated between one or more KSMS projects.

  • The proposed KSMS projects can range in size from a minimum of 5 full nights per semester for minimum of 2 semesters, up to a maximum of 15 full nights per semester for a maximum of 4 semesters. Programs requesting less than 5 nights per semester will be considered general Mission Support programs, and not KSMS programs.
  • Proposed projects can request partial nights, but not in increments less than ½ nights, as long as the sum total ≤ 15 nights per semester. However, scheduling constraints will be an important consideration in the selection process.
  • No more than 15 nights per semester will be allocated to KSMS projects.

KSMS proposals require letters of support demonstrating that the proposals support specific mission goals. Since the strong support of your letter writers is critical to deciding whether or not your proposal meets KSMS criteria, proposers should contact the relevant flight project lead as well as Dr. Hasan at NASA HQ well before the proposal submission deadline. Omission of any of these items by the specified due dates will result in the proposal being deemed non-compliant and will eliminate the proposal from KSMS consideration.

All KSMS proposals must include ALL of the following:

  1. A required but non-binding Notice of Intent (NoI) email including: the PI and potential Co-Is names and institutions, the title of the KSMS proposal, and a brief description of the intended project. NoI emails should be sent to the NASA Keck Operations Scientist, Dr. Dawn Gelino ( by February 14, 2019. The proposal title and PI name should not change once the NoI is submitted.
  2. A written letter of endorsement from the NASA Headquarters Keck Program Scientist, Dr. Hashima Hasan Dr. Hashima Hasan ( These letters must be requested from NASA Headquarters by February 28, 2019.
  3. A current, written endorsement letter from the flight project, e.g., from the Project Scientist, Project Manager, or Principal Investigator, which includes an explanation of the criticality, strategic importance, and timeliness of the proposed observations. These letters should be sent to NASA Keck Operations Scientist, Dr. Dawn Gelino ( with a copy sent to NASA Headquarters Keck Program Scientist, Dr. Hashima Hasan ( by the proposal due date (March 14, 2019).

IIa.ii. Required Criteria for Key Strategic Mission Support Proposals

  1. The proposed activity must support in a well-defined manner, high priority, mission-specific goals of a space mission either led by or with a formal partnership with NASA's Astrophysics or Planetary Science Divisions.
  2. The proposal must define a clear program and sample of objects in support of a compelling scientific program.
  3. The number of semesters and nights requested per semester should be clearly stated and justified. This request should also specify if the observing requests are time or date-constrained within each semester
  4. Proposers should discuss the efficiency of their program in terms of filling their proposed telescope time.
  5. Proposers should describe how their targets have been vetted or will be vetted using other facilities to ensure that Keck observations are used efficiently and effectively.
  6. Proposers should state the expected limiting precision of their observations, the details of the target sample (object characteristics, relevant ancillary data, sample size, etc.), their observing strategy and observing cadence, and demonstrate their capability to reduce the data in a timely manner at the required level of precision.
  7. Proposers should demonstrate a track record of appropriate and timely data reduction.
  8. The proposal must include a plan for timely release of processed data in a form suitable for use by the broader community as a contributed dataset through the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA). This must include discussion of data products that will result from your observing programs, as well as the wider value of these products to the community.
  9. Proposers should show a strong record of relevant publications and/or data releases.
  10. The proposal must include the required letters of support as detailed above.
  11. Proposals from teams with PI or Co-I access to the Keck telescopes through other partners are required to indicate specifically how they are using any other Keck telescope time they have been awarded for the proposed project, in addition to why their research requires time beyond the allocations available through their institution(s). See Section Ib.ii for details.
  12. Proposals should address the general proposal criteria described above (Ib.i-iii).

In order for a proposal to be recommended for scheduling, the proposal must have both a high science and a high strategic grade. The TAC evaluates the scientific merit of each proposal separately from the strategic merit, so successful proposals must present a strong and coherent scientific case.

We anticipate funding up to $75K/year/team (depending on the number of allocated nights and the complexity of the proposed final data products) to be available to support the completion of item 8 above.

The legacy value of the collected data, as well as the compelling data products produced from it, will enable the community to make more and better use of data from NASA space astrophysics and planetary science missions. Therefore, criterion #8 is an essential part of a KSMS program. Further, the amount of funding a successful KSMS proposal receives will be contingent upon the TAC's assessment of this criterion.

IIa.iii. Details of Key Strategic Mission Support Proposals

KSMS proposal packets must be written in 12-point font with 1-inch margins and are limited to the number of pages below. Please note that page limits are different for the general mission support and general observing proposals, and can be found here.

  • 5 pages for scientific justification
  • 1 page detailing the instrument request
  • 3 pages for tables, figures and references
  • 1 page for status of allocated time on large telescopes
  • 1 page for a data reduction and release plan
  • 1 page progress report for ongoing or recently completed NASA Keck projects
  • A target list that is as complete/representative as possible for scheduling purposes

All proposals requesting time must fill out a W. M. Keck Observatory Cover Sheet for 2019B. Successful KSMS teams must fill out a WMKO cover sheet for each subsequent semester to enable scheduling of their observations.

All raw data will be public through the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA) after the standard 18-month period of exclusive use (see Section VII below). Requests for a shorter proprietary period may be considered favorably by the TAC in their deliberations. Requests for longer proprietary periods will not be accepted for KSMS data. In addition to the raw data, KSMS programs must provide KOA with processed data as noted in criteria #8 above.

IIb. General Mission Support Proposals

The NASA Keck TAC accepts mission support proposals that demonstrate that the proposed observations provide critical and timely support for approved NASA space missions. In this case, "critical" refers to NASA Keck data meeting one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Essential to achieving Level 1 Requirements of the mission, e.g. Kepler follow-up at Keck being essential to validate and characterize planet candidates, validating WISE completeness/reliability right after launch, gathering data during LCROSS lunar impact;
  2. Essential to mission planning activities including those affecting the health, safety, and risk mitigation of NASA assets, e.g. looking for potentially harmful debris in the rings orbiting Pluto that might endanger the New Horizons spacecraft;
  3. Parallel/coordinated observations with NASA assets required for time critical events and/or for independent validation and verification of the space mission data, e.g. to support SOFIA observations of Pluto multiple occultations;
  4. Longer term mission planning, e.g. looking for Kuiper Belt objects that New Horizons might fly to after its encounter with Pluto;
  5. Observations essential to the calibration or data reduction of instruments on NASA missions, e.g. calibration of JWST spectrometers using the spectra of astrophysical objects.

The TAC evaluates the science of each Mission Support proposal along with the general proposal pool without special consideration for programmatic impact. However, mission support proposals usually garner high strategic grades, and the NASA Keck selecting official, the NExScI Executive Director, will take the TAC evaluation and programmatic concerns into consideration in making the final time assignments.

All proposals submitted under the general mission support category must include the following two endorsement letters, either in the proposal package or sent directly to the NASA Keck Operations Scientist, Dr. Dawn Gelino ( by the March 14 due date. Omission of either letter will eliminate a proposal from consideration in the mission support category.

  1. A written endorsement for the current semester from the NASA Headquarters Keck Program Scientist, Dr. Hashima Hasan ( These letters must be requested from NASA Headquarters no fewer than 10 business days before the proposal due date (i.e. by August 30, 2018) and the request must include: the title and abstract of the proposal, the Keck instrument(s) to be used, and a justification for mission support status.
  2. A current, written justification from the flight project, e.g., Project Scientist, Project Manager, or Principal Investigator, which includes an explanation of the criticality, strategic importance, and timeliness of the proposed observations as identified in criteria 1-5 of this section. These letters should be sent to the NASA Keck Operations Scientist, Dr. Dawn Gelino ( with a copy sent to the NASA Headquarters Program Scientist, Dr. Hashima Hasan ( by the March 14 proposal due date.

Since the strong support of your letter writers is critical to deciding whether your proposal meets Mission Support criteria, contact the relevant flight project lead, and Dr. Hasan at NASA HQ, well before the proposal submission deadline.

III. Multi-Semester Proposals and Applying for Partial Nights

Principal investigators may submit general observing/mission support proposals that span up to 4 semesters. This option reduces the workload on both PIs and the NASA Keck TAC for long-term programs. The NASA Keck TAC will be instructed to consider these proposals in light of all of the criteria that apply for single semester proposals, in addition to the following considerations:

  • If the proposal were accepted for only a single semester, what is the likelihood that it would be accepted again in ensuing semesters?
  • How much observing time does the TAC consider appropriate to remove from consideration in upcoming semesters?
  • Does the PI have a demonstrated history of successful proposals?

In considering multi-semester proposals, the TAC may recommend accepting the proposal in its entirety, for some subset of the proposed semesters, or reject it outright.

Proposals requesting less than full nights or cadence/Time Domain Astronomy programs must be scientifically and technically justified and can ordinarily be accommodated only if they can be combined with another selected program requiring a compatible instrument and configuration. Observing modes that require substantial observatory support (e.g., Laser Guide Star) are more difficult to schedule as partial night observations.

IV. Target of Opportunity, Cadence, and Twilight Observing Proposals

NASA observers can also propose cadence/Time Domain Astronomy (TDA), Target of Opportunity (ToO), and twilight observing programs. ToO proposals for events likely to happen during a single semester (e.g. gamma-ray bursts, supernovae) must be submitted during the regular submission cycle so that the proposed observations can be considered by the TAC and potential scheduling opportunities can be discussed. Cadence/TDA observations are those that can be scheduled in advance and require only a small fraction of a night several times over a semester.

WMKO policies related to ToO or TDA observing time, including how to initiate at ToO, can be found at ToO policies and TDA/cadence policies.

NASA's internal policy on ToOs can be found here.

The TAC will require that proposals requesting ToO or TDA status be of the highest scientific and/or strategic importance due to their disruptive nature at the observatory and to other observers. We will endeavor to schedule the highest priority programs, but we cannot guarantee availability of ToO/TDA observations for all approved programs. Observing modes that require substantial observatory support, e.g. LGS, are more difficult to schedule as ToO observations.

Four of the Keck partners (UC, Caltech, UH, and NASA) agreed that TAC-approved ToO and TDA projects may interrupt observers at any of these four institutions. The NASA Keck TAC can allocate up to 6 partner interrupts/triggers per semester, i.e. observations that interrupt observers at any of the four institutions. Each interrupt cannot exceed 1 hour.

Please note that ToOs can be requested as "NASA-only" or "partner." NASA-only ToOs can only be triggered for times when a NASA PI is observing. Partner interrupts can be triggered regardless of the institutional affiliation of the observing PI. NASA is allowed 6 partner triggers per semester. The limit on the number of NASA-only triggers is dependent on the number and nature of fractional night NASA programs recommended per semester, and will therefore vary each semester.

Under the new ToO rules, ALL programs, even partial night programs, are designated interruptible by default. PIs may ask for their time to be designated as uninterruptible, i.e. as exempt from ToO or cadence interrupts. To do this, mark the appropriate box on the NExScI submission page and justify in one brief paragraph why the proposed observations cannot be interrupted. This explanation should be strong and scientifically motivated, namely that such interruptions would seriously compromise the scientific return of the observing program. It is anticipated that interruption-free time will rarely be granted. Note that programs scheduled as half-nights or smaller will not be interrupted.

Only proposals that fit the case of a ToO observation of an extraordinary opportunity that could not have been anticipated prior to the proposal deadline may be submitted outside of the regular submission cycle to Dr. Dawn Gelino. Note that all ToO proposals must meet the strategic relevance guidelines described above.

Keck now has a program for acquiring snapshot observations in morning twilight. This program is designed to accommodate extra infrared observations during normally scheduled visible observations, when those observers end early and surrender the last portion of the night. Each partner institution will be limited to one (1) program per partner institution. Programs designed for longer term (> 1-2 years) will be given priority. Click here for more information on twilight observing.

The guiding principles of the twilight observing program are:

  • Voluntary participation by classically-scheduled PI and Observing Assistant (OA),
  • Execution completely at the discretion of the classically-scheduled PI and the OA

Furthermore, each morning twilight PI will be required to:

  • Use only NIRC2-NGS on Keck II;
  • develop target and observation managers;
  • develop, test, and debug instrument scripts;
  • employ only simple instrument configurations; and
  • dissect the observations into short integrations (<5min)

Interested PI's should propose using the "cadence" option on the cover sheet. Once a program is approved, the observing team will need to develop a set of instructions, planning tools, instrument scripts, and everything needed for OAs to conduct the observations autonomously. Please, note that these are voluntary observations by the OA, when the classically-scheduled PI volunteers the morning twilight, hence, there is no guarantee on the number of observations that will be conducted. Nevertheless, this program has proven to be advantageous for a certain types of quick snapshot observations.

V. Data Proprietary Periods

Data taken with all instruments on the Keck telescopes are included in the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA) with a default proprietary period of 18 months. Requests for extensions of this default proprietary period MUST be included in the proposal and on the WMKO cover sheet and be scientifically justified. All extensions must be approved by the NASA selecting official, NExScI Director, Dr. Charles Beichman.

VI. Publication Acknowledgement

All publications based on data acquired with the Keck telescopes and/or the Keck Observatory Archive should include the acknowledgement(s) below.

Please send a citation for any paper using either acknowledgement to the NASA Keck Operations Scientist, Dr. Dawn Gelino (

WMKO Acknowledgement

"This work was supported by a NASA Keck PI Data Award, administered by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute. Data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory from telescope time allocated to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through the agency's scientific partnership with the California Institute of Technology and the University of California. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation.

The authors wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Mauna Kea has always had within the indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain."

KOA Acknowledgement

"This research has made use of the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA), which is operated by the W. M. Keck Observatory and the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI), under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration." Please also use the ADS bibcode provided by KOA to reference the PI of the dataset.

VII. Application Procedures

To submit your proposal, please follow the guidelines outlined on the Application Procedures page, and submit your proposal via the online submission page. Proposals are due on Thursday, September 13, 2018 by 4 pm PDT.

Proposal Support

Subject to the availability of funds, NASA will financially support PIs of programs assigned time through this call for proposals. PIs will receive limited research and travel support contingent upon NASA Headquarters funding. Funding awards will be determined through formulaic means. Target of Opportunity and twilight observing proposals do not receive financial support since the observations may never be triggered. PIs of approved KSMS programs are expected to be awarded up to $75K/year depending on the number of nights the program is awarded and the complexity of the proposed final data products.

NExScI will manage the Keck PI Data Awards and will contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to administer the disbursement of most of the funds. Depending on the size of the award and the nature of the PI's home institution, the funding instrument used by JPL will in most cases be a Research Support Agreement (RSA). An RSA is a simple Fixed Price, Advance Paid, subcontract provided through JPL that is used for basic research funding where scientific reports and technical data are the only deliverables. RSAs can be awarded to educational and non-profit institutions. JPL is unable to issue grants. Proposers should not include any budget information in the proposal however successful KSMS proposers will be contacted by NASA Headquarters for detailed budget information.

The only reporting necessary for KPDAs is a final "end of contract" report outlining the work done and listing publications from the research. This report is required. Please use this final report template to ensure that all relevant information is included. Failure to submit a final report in a timely manner may be grounds for rejection of observing proposals in subsequent years. Final reports can be submitted online.

VIII. Remote Observing

NASA Keck observers have direct access to three Remote Observing Facilities (ROFs) for their Keck observations. These ROFs are located at Caltech (Pasadena, CA), Yale University (New Haven, CT) and USRA (Columbia, MD). See the ROF page for more information and usage guidelines. The procedure to use one of these ROFs should be started no later than 5 weeks before the scheduled nights.

Note that other ROFs are available to NASA users with direct access to these facilities.

Web Curator and NExScI Cognizant Official: Dr. Dawn Gelino

(last updated May 31st, 2019 17:13:51)