NASA Keck Call for Proposals: Frequently Asked Questions

Read the complete Call for Proposals here.

If you have questions about the call, please contact Submitted questions and responses will be posted below.

For questions not answered below, please email

General FAQs

Q: Our proposed project requests a full night of observations on a specific date and time. Is this considered a classical program - "requesting time that is flexible in scheduling" - or cadence program - "with specific date or date range requests"?

A : If you are requesting observations on a date specific night, please submit your proposal as 'classical'. On the WMKO scheduling sheet, and in your proposal, please specify which night and/or time you are requesting (in HST). If your proposal is recommended for time by the TAC, then it will be sent to WMKO as a 'time critical/date specific' observation.

Q: Is there a standard way of acknowledging the award of NASA Keck time and the associated funding?

A : All publications based on data acquired with the Keck telescopes should include the following 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."

Please send a citation for any paper using this acknowledgement to us at

Q: Is there a standard way of acknowledging use of the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA)?

A : All publications based on data in the Keck Observatory Archive (KOA) should include this acknowledgement.

Q: I am currently at an institution outside the U.S. and will be starting a position at a U.S. institution soon after the deadline to apply for Keck time. Therefore, I will be a U.S.-based astronomer before the start of the observing semester but after the proposal deadline. Am I allowed to propose as a P.I.?

A : Yes, you can apply as a P.I. since you will be based in the U.S. before the start of the observing semester. Include all the information from the U.S.-based institution in your proposal for NASA Keck observing time.

Q: Do you have to be a U.S. citizen or at a NASA institution to apply for NASA Keck time?

A : No, you do not have to be at a NASA institution or be a US Citizen in order to apply for NASA Keck time. Any scientist from any US institution may apply.

Q: What do the following criteria really mean? "Investigations in support of Cosmic Origins science goals and missions."

A : The Cosmic Origins theme science includes stars, star formation, galaxies/AGN, and galaxy formation as described in the 2014 NASA Strategic Plan

FAQs related to Mission Support Status and Key Strategic Mission Support Proposals

Q: Is the solicitation restricted to science associated with specific missions?

A : NASA Keck time is not limited to a set of specific missions, but rather to projects that address the goals and questions in the Solar System, Exoplanet, Cosmic Origins, and Physics of the Cosmos science themes. Your job is to convince the TAC that it is relevant to a NASA goal in one of these science areas, as well as being an efficient use of NASA Keck time.

Q: What does "critical and timely support for approved NASA space missions" mean?

A : In this case, "critical" refers to refers to NASA Keck data meeting one or more of the following criteria:

  1. essential to achieving Level 1 Requirements of the mission
  2. essential to important mission planning activities
  3. essential to longer term mission planning

Q: Do the required mission support letters count against the page number restrictions?

A : No, these are separate documents that are submitted in addition to the proposal.

FAQs related to Current/Past Allocated Observing Time

Q: Should the "references and status of allocated time on large telescopes" and the "progress report for ongoing or recently completed NASA Keck projects" be included for the PI only or for all the Co-Is as well?

A : This is only required for the proposal PI. However, if your Co-Is' project is relevant to your current proposal in any way, then a listing of the time allocated and a progress report for that project should also be included.

Q: Should progress reports be included for ongoing or recently completed Keck projects that I am involved with but not as the PI or am I exempt from this since I am not the PI on these projects?

A : This requirement is only for the proposal PI. However if the project is relevant to your current proposal in any way, then a progress report should be included.

Q: What specific information should be included in the section "status of allocated time on large telescopes"?

A : An overview of recent and pending large telescope time, NASA or otherwise, is advised. If the time pertains directly to your proposed program, feel free to offer details. It is also prudent to note any publications resulting from previous telescope time, NASA or otherwise.

Q: Is there a template for the final Keck PI Data Award report?

A : Yes, using this template for your final report will ensure that all relevant information is included.

FAQs related to Proposal Format

Q: Is there a standard proposal template?

A : Yes, we have a template for NASA Keck proposals in both Word and Latex formats. Use of the template is optional but will help you submit a compliant proposal. Please also read the Call for Proposals to ensure that you include all the information requested.

Q: Do the required mission support letters count against the page number restrictions?

A : No, these are separate documents that are submitted in addition to the proposal.

FAQs related to Remote Observing

Q: Can I make my NASA Keck observations from a remote location?

A : Yes. NASA Keck observers have access to remote observing facilities (ROFs) at Caltech, Yale, and through USRA in Columbia, MD. Please note that other ROFs are also available and NASA users with access to these may use them, however arrangements must be made with those ROFs directly (i.e. independent of NExScI).

Observers wishing to use the Caltech,Yale, or URSA/Columbia ROFs are required to follow the procedure described at the WMKO Mainland Observing Policies page and summarized here. This process should be started at least 5 weeks prior to the scheduled observing run.

(last updated August 17th, 2020 11:52:56)