Application Procedure for NASA Allocated Observing Time on the Keck Telescopes

2017B proposals are due March 16, 2017

Application Procedure for the Keck 2017B Semester

Online Electronic Submission is required

All proposals should be sumbitted online following the instructions given below and adhering to the guidelines in the call for proposals.

  • Proposal Deadline: All proposals for the 2017B semester and the relevant supporting letters must be received before 4 pm PDT, March 16, 2017. This deadline is rigorously enforced.
  • Mission Support Letters: Letters for mission support proposals must be requested from NASA HQ by March 1, two weeks before submission deadline.
  • Proposal Guidelines: All proposers should carefully read through the proposal guidelines before writing their proposal. Proposals that do not include all information specified will have the omission(s) reflected in their TAC scores and, in some cases, be rejected outright.
  • Frequently Asked Questions are answered here.

  • Information for 2017B Proposals:

    • Proposal Justification:

      • Proposers should clearly discuss the scientific goals of the proposed observations following the call for proposals.
      • Proposers should indicate which of the four scientific areas (Exoplanet Exploration, Cosmic Origins, Physics of the Cosmos, Solar System) is addressed by their proposal. Direct Mission Support proposals in any of these science areas are also accepted.
      • Proposers must explicitly address how their proposed project supports NASA's strategic goals as detailed in the updated 2014 NASA Science Plan.

    • Proposal Content: Proposal packets must be written in 12-point font with 1-inch margins and are limited to:
      • WMKO Cover Sheet: all proposals requesting time must fill out the WMKO Cover Sheet. Please include a PDF of the cover sheet, generated after the cover sheet has been submitted on the WMKO website. Please verify that you have a proposal number on the top right corner of your WMKO cover sheet. This number should reflect the current semester and contain an "N" to indicate you are applying for NASA time.
      • up to 2 pages of scientific justification (and additional mission support justification, in the case of direct mission support proposals)
      • up to 1 page detailing the instrument request
      • up to 1 page of figures and tables
      • up to 1 page of references and status of allocated time on large telescopes
      • up to 1 page progress report for ongoing or recently completed NASA Keck projects
      • List of target stars/objects (Epoch 2000)

  • Electronic Submission: Proposers should submit a PDF of their proposal using the Online Proposal Submission Form. The Online Proposal Submission Form includes:

    • A text box for you to enter an abstract for your proposal. The abstract does not need to be repeated in the body of the proposal.

    • A text box for you to state why public observations already in the Keck Observatory Archive are not sufficient to meet the science goals of the proposal. Note that this is new for 2017B and is an effort to use NASA time on the Keck telescopes as efficiently as possible. Please see the call guidelines for more information and instructions.

  • Shortly after the successful receipt of the proposal at NExScI, you will receive an email acknowledgement with an attached copy of the PDF submission as received at NExScI. Please email if you do not receive the confirmation email or experience problems. Information on the NExScI cover page may be made public for accepted proposals.

  • Evaluation and Notification: NASA will follow the guidelines in the call for proposals in evaluating proposals and assigning observing time. Scientific justification and strategic importance will be the primary selection criteria, except in the case of mission support proposals, in which programmatic criteria may also be important. The review process will consist of a science review by the NASA Keck TAC and, possibly, by the WMKO staff for technical soundness. Final selection is made by the selecting official, the NExScI Executive Director, based upon the recommendations of the TAC. Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their applications in June or December as appropriate. Successful applicants will be notified as early as possible and are strongly encouraged to set up communications with the WMKO technical staff who are assigned to support NASA investigators. This will ensure that valuable Keck telescope time will be used efficiently from your first time on the telescope.
  • Proposal Support:
    • Subject to the availability of funds, Principal Investigators of programs assigned time by the NASA Keck TAC will receive limited research and travel funding. Funding awards will be determined through formulaic means. Target of Opportunity proposals do not typically receive financial support since the observations may never be triggered. NExScI will manage the Keck PI Data Awards (KPDAs) and will contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to administer the disbursement of most of the funds. The funding instrument used by JPL will in most cases be a Research Support Agreement (RSA) depending on the size of the award and the PI's home institution. 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 and can be awarded to educational and non-profit institutions. JPL is unable to issue grants.
    • The only reporting necessary for RSAs is a final report outlining the work completed and any resulting publications. This report is required and is not optional. Using this template for your final report will 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 or withholding of funding in subsequent years.
    • Publications including NASA Keck time should include the acknowledgment found here. Notification of publications should be sent to

  • Instrument Notes: All PIs are advised to consult the Special Instrument Notes provided on the Keck Observatory web site. Please note that Keck I and Keck II have different eastern and western telescope limits which affects the times that objects are available for observing. WMKO will not offer any visitor instruments during 2017B.

Web Curator NExScI Cognizant Official: Dawn Gelino