Thursday, March 4, 2021: deadline to request letters from NASA HQ and the project for General Mission Support proposals
Thursday, March 18, 2021 by 4 pm Pacific: deadline for proposal submission
NASA announces a call for proposals to use its share of observing time at the W. M. Keck Observatory. This call for semester 2021B (August 1, 2021 - January 31, 2022) will allocate 36.5 nights of observing, with planned allocations of 22 nights on Keck 1 and 18.5 nights on Keck 2, distributed evenly across dark, grey, and bright time. Typical over subscription rates range from 3:1 to 5:1.
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:
Within these science areas, two types of proposals for NASA Keck observing time will be accepted:
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 in the science areas listed above, as described in the 2014 NASA Science Plan. Gradations of strategic relevance are listed below. 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; a numerical grade will be assigned for strategic relevance.
General Observing programs requiring many nights of Keck time over multiple semesters (up to 4 semesters) may be submitted, but must explicitly justify their strategic connection to the stated goals. Read further about multi-semester proposals in Section III below.
Within these broad guidelines, the allocation of time will be based on scientific merit, strategic importance, resource availability, and the uniqueness of Keck's capabilities for the investigation. All proposals for NASA Keck time will be evaluated by scientists on the NASA Keck Telescope Allocation Committee (NASA Keck TAC), with the TAC process administered by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI). In recognition of the science communities that NASA Keck time is expected to serve, TAC members are selected to ensure balanced expertise in the areas of exoplanets, solar system objects, and in support of NASA's Cosmic Origins and Physics of the Cosmos goals. NASA's proposal solicitation and their evaluation by the NASA Keck TAC will be phased to meet the telescope scheduling requirements set by the Director of the Keck Observatory.
All proposals for NASA Keck time must comply with the following criteria.
Proposals received by the application deadline will be reviewed and ranked by the NASA Keck TAC. The TAC will 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:
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:
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.
The opportunity to propose as Principal Investigators (PIs) for the NASA time on the Keck Telescopes is open to all U.S.-based astronomers, i.e. those with their principal affiliation at a U.S. institution.
Proposals from PIs, or any Co-Is, who have access to the Keck or Subaru (if applying for Subaru time) 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/Subaru 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/Subaru 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 that 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.
In order to use the NASA time on the Keck telescopes as efficiently as possible, we ask proposers to verify 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 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.
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 use 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 in the NExScI HIRES processing environment.
Full documentation of the instrumental setup for the HIRES PRV configuration and the use of the HIRES PRV processing environment can be found here. Questions regarding the HIRES PRV configuration or PRV processing may be directed to Dr. David Ciardi at NExScI.
NASA has solicited proposals for large Key Strategic Mission Support programs in three previous semesters: 2016A, 2018A, and 2019B. Abstracts of the KSMS programs selected in these three semesters can be read here.
The selected proposals directly support NASA mission science goals and are not just larger versions of general science programs. We anticipate the next call for KSMS projects will be for observing semester 2022A.
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:
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 (KeckCFP@ipac.caltech.edu) by the September 17 due date. Omission of either letter will eliminate a proposal from consideration in the mission support category.
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.
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:
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.
Note that programs requesting less than half night increments are difficult to schedule and may, in fact, not be schedulable due to the following WMKO requirements: less than half night increments must be matched with other compatible NASA programs to fill a full night, and no more than 2 observing programs can be scheduled per night. For example, a 1/4 night NASA program must be matched with a compatible 3/4 night NASA program.
Each partner institution is limited to one twilight program per telescope per semester; twilight observing is currently restricted to OSIRIS (Keck I) and NIRC2 (Keck II). For 2021B, the NASA Keck TAC is accepting twilight observing proposals for both NIRC2 and OSIRIS.
NASA observers can also propose for cadence/Time Domain Astronomy (TDA) and Target of Opportunity (ToO) 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. Programs requesting date-specific observations should be submitted as classical proposals noting the date restrictions, NOT as cadence proposals.
Please read the following policies on ToO and cadence observing. Note that requests for ToOs or cadence observing are
Due to their disruptive nature, ToO or TDA proposals must be of the highest scientific and/or strategic importance. We will try to schedule the highest priority programs, but 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.
ToOs will be limited to instruments currently in use and must be triggered prior to 4:00 pm HST. All ToO observing teams should set up "at-home" observing at the beginning of the semester, well ahead of any possible ToO trigger events.
Partner Interrupts vs. NASA interrupts: ToOs can be requested as "NASA-only" or "Partner." The four major Keck partners (UC, Caltech, UH, and NASA) have agreed that TAC-approved ToO and TDA projects may interrupt observers at any of these four institutions. The NASA Keck TAC can only allocate up to a total/combination of 6 partner cadence interrupts and ToO triggers per semester, i.e. NASA observers can only interrupt observers from any of the other institutions a total of 6 times per semester. Each interrupt cannot exceed 1 hour.
NASA-only ToOs can only be triggered for times when a NASA PI is observing. 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, but will likely be no more than 6.
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 a brief paragraph why the proposed observations cannot be interrupted. This explanation should be strong and scientifically motivated. It is anticipated that interruption-free time will rarely be granted.
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 has a program for acquiring snapshot observations in morning twilight. In 2021B, institutions are able to allocate one twilight observing program per telescope, for a total of up to two programs per semester. On Keck I, OSIRIS-NGS (imager only) will be available, and on Keck II NIRC2-NGS will be available.
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. Programs designed for longer term (> 1-2 years) will be given priority. Click here (https://www2.keck.hawaii.edu/inst/tda/TwilightZone.html) for more information on twilight observing.
The guiding principles of the twilight observing program are:
Furthermore, each twilight PI will be required to:
Interested PIs 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.
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.
All publications based on data acquired with the Keck telescopes and/or the Keck Observatory Archive must include the acknowledgement(s) below.
Please send a citation for any paper using either acknowledgement to the NASA Keck Operations Scientist, Dr. Dawn Gelino (KeckCFP@ipac.caltech.edu).
"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."
"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.
Proposal packets must be written in 12-point font with 1-inch margins. We have a NASA Keck proposal template in both Word and Latex formats. Use of the template is optional but will help you submit a proposal that complies with the following page limits.
Proposals that violate these page limits will be evaluated solely on the information on the allowed pages and will likely receive a lower ranking from the TAC, and in extreme cases may be returned as non-compliant.
Shortly after proposal submission, you will receive an email acknowledgement with an attached copy of the PDF submission as received at NExScI. Please email KeckCFP@ipac.caltech.edu if you do not receive the confirmation email or experience problems. Information on the NExScI cover page may be made public for accepted proposals.
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.
Special Note on COVID At-Home ("pajama mode") Observing: During the pandemic, Keck will support up to two observers for at-home observing: one primary and one secondary observer. Additional observers can join but cannot launch the VNC control system for the instruments. At-home observing requires the installation of software which only runs on linux and macOS operating systems. At-home observers will be contacted by Keck staff and should work with this staff to install and test the software several days ahead of their run to allow time for troubleshooting.
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 March 3rd, 2021 13:10:16)