Observing Proposal project


Here's the situation: the Director of Kitt Peak Observatory has announced that there will be several nights of "Director's Discretionary Time" available on the telescopes over the next 12 months. Time is available on two telescopes, while equipped in imaging mode:
Your task is to write an observing proposal to use one (or both) of these facilities to do some science.
Things to consider:
Note on using the exposure time calculator:

The exposure time calculator assumes you are doing photometry of individual stars, i.e., point sources. So it works well for giving you an estimate of exposure time to image a star of a given total magnitude. So if you are doing a project involving photometry of individual stars, you must use the exposure time calculators.

But if you are looking at extended sources (like galaxies, which are spread over many pixels), the calculation will give you the wrong answer.  If you want to measure a large object down to a given limiting surface brightness (in mag/arcsec^2) -- for example, measure the surface brightness of a nearby galaxy, it's more complicated, and the calculator can't handle it. So, for extended sources, you can do one of two things to estimate exposure times:

  1. Estimate it by previous studies. Find a similar project in the literature that uses the same class of telescope and the same filters as your project, and gets to the accuracy that you need. Adopt their exposure times.
  2. Kludge it. What is the surface brightness limit you need to reach? With that surface brightness, work out the magnitude of a 10x10 arcsec patch. Then enter that magnitude into the expsoure time calculator, and enter 10" for the seeing (and aperture). This will get you in the right ballpark, as long as you don't go fainter than ~ 27 mag/arcsec2.
Marginally resolved sources: if your galaxies are very small (a few arcsec across, like galaxies in a high redshift cluster), just treat them like point sources -- use their total magnitudes and run the calculator like you would on stars, but set the seeing to be sqrt(seeing^2 + angular size^2).

These kludges are pretty crude, so if you are doing an exposure time calculation for an extended source, check in with me to make sure you're getting reasonable values.

Proposal Structure and Format

Note: the page length descriptions by section are different from what you see in the example proposals. Follow the instructions here!

Cover Page (one page maximum):

Scientific Justification (two pages, single spaced. If you're writing less than this, you're not being thorough; if you're writing more, you're not editing yourself well.):

Figures and References (a page or two max):

Technical Description of Observations (one page):
Other Notes:
Proposal Review Criteria



Possible Projects (the list is endless!)