Applying for Telescope Time on CfA OIR Telescopes


CfA OIR Telescopes

The CfA is a partner in the Magellan consortium (twin 6.5-m telescopes at Las Campanas, Chile) and the 6.5 MMT at Mt. Hopkins, Arizona.

The CfA also operates the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO) at Mt. Hopkins. The Ridge telescopes on Mt. Hopkins include the 1.5-m, 1.3-m, PAIRITEL, and the VERITAS γ-ray telescope.


Applying for CfA time

To apply for CfA time on the MMT, Magellan, or Ridge Telescopes (1.5-m, 1.3-m, and PAIRITEL), the CfA must be your primary affiliation and you must be resident at a CfA facility. CfA staff on leave or sabbatical may also apply for time.

Before applying for time, please read the CfA Observing Policies. The navigation column to the left has links to policies for each observatory.


Instrument Availability

Before appying for time, please check the instrument status and the range of dates available for each telescope.


Applying for Public time

The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) allocates public time available on the MMT and Magellan through the Telescope System Instrumentation Program (TSIP). There is no public time available on the OIR Ridge telescopes.


CfA Time Available

At FLWO and the MMT, we allocate time for four month trimesters. In each trimester, the typical time available for CfA staff is

FLWO:   48 D (dark) + 24 G (grey) + 48 L (light) nights
MMTO:   20 D + 10 G + 20 L

During summer shutdown in Arizona, FLWO and MMTO allocations are 25% smaller.


At Magellan, we allocate time for six month semesters. In each semester, the typical time available is:

Magellan:   22 D + 11 G + 22 L

This time is roughly evenly divided between Magellan I (Baade) and Magellan II (Clay).


Instruments Available

Please check to see which telescopes and instruments are available for the next proposal due date.


Observing Proposals

Observing proposals are due at noon Eastern Time (EST or EDT) on the second or third Tuesday of February, June, and October.

Observing proposals are submitted using a web-based form.

Observing proposals have three parts:

Cover page (including a short abstract)
Scientific Justification & Experimental Design (2 pages)
Figures, publications, references, and target list (2 pages)

Large proposals requesting more than 6 nights are allowed an extra page for the scientific justification. These will be reviewed more critically.

A LaTex template for all but the cover page is available here.

The proposals are collated by telescope and instrument, and then printed out for review.


Proposal Reviews

The time allocation committee (TAC) reviews the proposals.

Proposals are ranked according to

overall scientific merit
publication record using CfA facilities
availability of time requested

TAC members enter grades over the web.

Grades are normalized and averaged to produced rank-ordered lists for each telescope.

Based on allocations from each observatory, TAC members discuss each proposal and assign time.


TAC Meetings

The TAC meets three times per year, roughly two weeks after observing proposals are due.

The TAC reads, ranks, and recommends time allocations for observing proposals.

The TAC chair sends time requests to staff at FLWO, Magellan, and MMT Observatories and helps to coordinate scheduling of CfA time requests.


Current TAC Members

Edo Berger
Warren Brown
Jeremy Drake
Daniel Eisenstein (Chair)
Nancy Evans
Paul Green
John Johnson
Scott Kenyon
Robert Kirshner
Karin Öberg
Alicia Soderberg
Alexey Vikhlinin


Observing Schedules

Each observatory produces a schedule for observers.

After a draft schedule is produced, the TAC chair checks the schedule and circulates the draft to observers.

Final schedules are posted on the web. The navigation column to the left has links to schedules for FLWO, Magellan, and the MMT.


Observing Preparation

To plan observing runs, all observers should contact the appropriate instrument scientist or an experienced CfA observer. Unlike NOAO, the FLWO, MMTO, and Magellan do not provide an instrument scientist at the telescope or a software scientist to assist with data reduction after your observing run. Thus, it is the observer's responsibility to prepare for the run and to learn about changes in the hardware and software since their last observing run.

New observers should take extra time to prepare for their observing run. If you are not familiar with a telescope or an instrument, you must learn how to operate the instrument from an experienced observer. Usually, arriving at the telescope several days before your observing run will give you enough experience. Please read the appropriate set of guidelines to help you to prepare for your run.

MMT guidelines
Magellan guidelines
FLWO Observing Policies

The TDC staff can also assist with instrument preparation for FLWO and MMT instruments. Here are some useful links.

FLWO 1.2-m
FLWO 1.5-m
Finding Charts

For additional information, you can also access these sites:


There is also an interactive tour of Mt. Hopkins


Visitor Policies

Although scheduled observers may invite guests to watch operations at the MMT, the MMTO has a strict visitor policy that requires approval from Mr Dennis Smith, Mountain Operations Manager. The TAC strongly supports this policy and recommends that observers read the policy before traveling to the MMTO.