Writing proposals

At present, LCO accepts regular (i.e., non-key-project) science proposals from the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) at Caltech, the University of Colorado, the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC), and members of the (extended) LCOGT science team.

Proposal submission

Proposals must be submitted through LCO's Observatory portal. Users must first register. After registering, users can click on the "Create or edit proposals" link to access the web-based proposal form. (The form is made available after the call for proposals is issued.) Details of the proposal format are given below.

Observatory Instruments and Software Tools

Details about the imaging cameras, the spectrographs, and the available filters can be found on the Observatory instruments page.

The Exposure Time Calculator (ETC) can help you estimate your observing time budget. The ETC will calculate the exposure time required to achieve a given signal-to-noise ratio for an object of a given magnitude. You refine the calculation by selecting the telescope class (2m, 1m, or 0.4m), filter (U, B, V, etc.), lunar phase, and airmass.

The Target Visibility Calculator shows how observable a given position (RA & Dec) are on the LCOGT network. A target's "seasonal visibility" is the UT range that the target is visible over a range a dates. A target's "daily visibility" is its trajectory of altitudes/airmasses as seen at the network sites on a particular (user-selected) day.

Observation overheads 

Every observation has a time overhead associated with it. For every new object acquired, there are associated Slew & Settle times and Acquisition & Setup times.  For every integration, there is an associated readout time. And for every FLOYDS spectrum, there are associated calibration (reference arc and flat) observations.  Calibration observations (biases, darks, flats) for the imagers are obtained during twilight, and  the time for these is not charged to users.  

When calculating the observing budget for your proposal, you should takes these times into account:

slew & settle 120s 180s 180s 90s 90s
acquisition & setup
(includes filter change for imagers)
150s 18s 430s 18s 18s
readout 26s 19s 58s 28s 14s
(arc and flat at target position)
95s - NA - -

Example 1: An observation request that consists of three 60s exposures through the V filter with Sinistro. Total request = 90s (slew and settle) + 18s (acquisition and setup) + [3 x (60s + 28s) (exposure plus readout)] = 372 seconds.

Example 2: A 15-minute integration with FLOYDS. Total request = 120s (slew and settle) + 150s (acquisition and setup) + 900s (exposure) + 26s (readout) + 95s (calibration) = 1291 seconds.

Proposal format

The fields that must be completed in the proposal submission interface to successfully submit a science proposal are the following:

Title Limited to 100 characters Abstract Limited to 500 words Principal Investigator If this is not the author, fill in the PI's last name, first name, email address and institution name. Co-investigators Last names, first names, email addresses and institution names of Co-Is. Observing budget Requested observing time in hours on each instrument for the duration of the semester. Specify time requested for rapid-response and time-critical observations separately.

The remainder of the proposal must be included in a single pdf file that should not exceed 6 pages. The file should include the following sections:

  • Science justification. Background information and a statement of the goals of the project. The results of any previous time allocated for this project should be discussed. Pertinent references should be included. Figures may be embedded.
  • Experimental design. A description of the strategy of the observing program, including the characteristics of the targets, the measurements to be made from the data, and what additional work will be done to address the science goals. This section must include an explanation of the observing budget, in which the instrument selection, exposure times, and total number of hours requested are justified. Requests for Rapid Response or Time Critical observations must be justified independently. If unusual scheduling constraints might impact the project's success, identify them.
  • Related programs on other telescopes. A concise account of other programs which relate to this proposal.
  • Report on past use of LCO time. A concise account of time used on LCO network in the past 3 years.
  • Applicant's related publications. Up to 10 relevant publications from the past 3 years.

Data Access

Pipeline reduced data may be searched and downloaded through the LCO Science Archive.  Data are typically available in the archive soon after they are transferred to LCO's Santa Barbara headquarters (typically <10 minutes after the instrument shutter closes).

Science data has a default proprietary period of 12 months from the time of a given observation.  Data that has reached the end of its proprietary period is accessible from the LCO Science Archive.