2017B NASA Keck Time Solicitation


The call for proposals for NASA Keck time in observing semester 2017B (August 1, 2017-January 31, 2018) is now open for professional research using the NASA allocation for telescope observing time at the W.M. Keck Observatory.

2018A proposals will be due Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 4 pm PDT; 2018A call information will be posted in late July.

Notice of Future Call for NASA Keck Key Strategic Mission Support Programs

NASA is a 1/6 partner in the two 10-m telescopes of the William M. Keck Observatory. Access to NASA's share of this time on the Keck telescopes, approximately 90 nights per year, is available to all astronomers resident at US institutions. Proposals are submitted twice a year to the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) which runs the selection process on behalf of all science disciplines in NASA's Astrophysics and Planetary Science Divisions. Observing time is awarded on the basis of scientific merit and the degree to which the proposed program supports NASA missions and/or NASA's strategic goals.

Starting in 2016, NASA set aside 1/3 of its allocation for Key Strategic Mission Support programs (KSMS). These programs were required to demonstrate a critical need for ground-based data in direct support of an on-going or a future space mission. In the 2016A semester, NASA selected three KSMS projects for a 2 year duration: follow-up of transiting exoplanet candidates found by the K2 mission (Andrew Howard, PI, Hawaii/Caltech, 40 nights over 2 years); calibration of photometric redshifts for the EUCLID mission using spectroscopic redshifts of over 1,000 galaxies (Dan Stern, JPL, PI, 10 nights over 2 years); and a search for evidence of water and active generation of plumes in support of the Europa Clipper project (Lucas Paganini, U. Catholic/GSFC, PI, 10 nights over 2 years). All three programs come to an end at the completion of the 2017B semester.

In the expectation that NASA's 5-year Cooperative Agreement with William M. Keck Observatory will be renewed for the period 2018-2022, The 2018A KSMS opportunity will be open for topics/missions in astrophysics and planetary science. However, due to uncertainties in the actual launch dates for, and the availability of data from, TESS and JWST, KSMS proposals will NOT be accepted for these two missions in 2018A. PIs interested in precursor or early follow-up observations for these two missions can still propose for general Mission Support projects in semesters 2018A-2019A, in addition to the next KSMS proposal call planned for the 2019B semester. We expect that successful proposers will be funded, depending on the number of allocated nights, to assist with data analysis and the development of data products.

Details of the opportunity and the proposal process will be announced when the 2018A Call for Proposals is released in late July with non-binding notices of intent due August 16, 2017 (submitted via email to A KSMS project is typically multi-semester, spanning 10-60 nights over a time period of up to three years.

General Information and Guidelines

  • NASA intends the use of the Keck telescopes to be highly strategic in support of on-going missions and/or high priority, long-term science goals. The NASA Keck call is open to a wide range of disciplines spanning from exoplanets and solar system topics to galactic and extragalactic topics. Click here for more details on this proposal call.
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Application Procedures

  • Click here for information on page limits, proposal content, electronic submission, etc.
  • The opportunity to propose as Principal Investigators for the NASA time on the Keck Telescopes is open to all U.S.-based astronomers (i.e. those who have their principal affiliation at a U.S. institution).
  • Online Proposal Submission Site
  • Questions? email:

Highlights for 2017B

  1. Keck Observatory Archive (KOA) Check: In an effort to use the NASA time on the Keck telescopes as efficiently as possible, starting in 2017B we will ask proposers to verify to the TAC that their science goals can not 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. Please see this section in the call guidelines for more information and instructions.

  2. Time Domain Astronomy: Observers now have the ability to propose both cadence (Time Domain Astronomy, TDA) and Target of Opportunity (ToO) programs following the policies outlined here (ToO policies) and here (TDA/cadence policies). For Semester 2017A, four Keck partners (UC, Caltech, UH, and NASA) have agreed that TAC-approved ToO/TDA projects may interrupt observers at any of the four institutions. Each TAC can award up to a combined total of six ToO/TDA observations which interrupt any of the other institutions. If you are considering submitting a ToO or cadence observing proposal, see Section V below for important details.

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

  4. Information on strategic grading is found in Section Ia below. Please refer to the updated 2014 NASA Science Plan for the strategic relevance section of your proposal.

  5. Letters for Mission Support proposals must be requested from NASA HQ by March 1, two weeks before submission deadline.

  6. Some of the special notes and considerations for the Keck instruments are listed below. For the complete list, check the WMKO instrument page for telescope observing limits and the current list of available instruments.
    • KCWI is planned for commissioning but will not be offered for science in 2017B.
    • NIRC2 L-band Vortex Coronagraph: WMKO has prepared a User Manual for the Vortex Coronograph at NIRC2 on Keck II and a Quick User Manual on How to run QACITS for the Vortex Coronograph.
    • SUBARU exchange: Subaru is unavailable for science from early October until Mid December 2017 due to primary mirror recoating. Otherwise, the SUBARU-Keck exchange will continue as last semester with flexibility as to the number of nights available for exchange, with the final number based on the demand from each community. Neither Keck nor Subaru will support Target of Opportunity (ToO) observations during the exchanged nights. All observations will be executed in "classical" observing mode.

Key Dates

March 1: Mission Support letter inquiries due to NASA HQ

March 16: All proposals and supporting letters due to NExScI by 4 pm PDT

Useful Links and Information

The icon indicates updates have been made since last semester.

The NASA Keck Time Solicitation Information web site is a source of information for professional researchers who wish to submit proposals for the NASA allocation of observing time at the W. M. Keck Observatory. For general public information, please visit the Keck Home Page.

Web Curator and NExScI Cognizant Official: Dawn Gelino

(last updated June 27th, 2017 13:31:24)