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Access to McDonald Observatory by non-UT Austin researchers

McDonald Observatory grants a modest amount of telescope time to unsolicited, competitive proposals from the national and international astronomical communities. Time donated to researchers at institutions other than UT Austin is limited to approximately 10% of the time on the 2.7m, 2.1m, and 0.8m telescopes on an annual basis and is designated as "Director's Discretionary Time." The Observatory particularly encourages proposals from our partners in the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (Penn State, Stanford, München and Göttingen).

The institutional affiliation of the Principal Investigator on the submitted proposal defines whether a proposal is "UT Austin" or "non-UT Austin."

Preparation by non-UT Austin observers is essential

McDonald Observatory is not a "national facility" and does not provide the same level of service to visitors that such a facility provides. In particular, on-mountain training is not available and instrument manuals are not as polished as for the national centers. Therefore, new non-UT Austin observers must choose at least one of the following and indicate the choice in the proposal:

1) Come 2 nights early, before your observing run, to learn the instrument; and/or
2) Arrange for a qualified Texas observer to accompany you; and/or
3) Collaborate with a qualified Texas observer; and/or
4) Hire a qualified Texas graduate student for the run.

It is crucial that the non-UT Austin PI makes arrangements (#2, #3, or #4) prior to submitting the proposal and explains the arrangements made in the proposal.

Notification to the mountain staff of instrumentation and housing needs is required of all observers at least three weeks in advance of the observing run via an electronic Request for Services form. This form is appended to the UT Austin Request for Travel Authorization (for local observers via the RFS or RTA commands on the UT computer networks) and is available on the McDonald web site ( ) or by anonymous ftp in directory /pub/mcdonald on (for non-UT Austin observers).

All observers, from whatever institution, are responsible for their own travel to McDonald Observatory and for their living expenses on the mountain. Accommodations are provided in the "Transients' Quarters", a small hotel and dining facility, on the mountain and within walking distance to the telescopes. At this writing the charge for room and board is $70 per day.

Telescope Allocation Committee

A Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC) reviews the proposals and creates a ranking on the basis of the importance of the science, the appropriateness of the instrumentation to the task and the productivity of the PI. Sponsorship of the observing time does not enter into the ranking process. TAC members create their reviews and grades independently and do not review their own, or close associates proposals.

The TAC is composed of six (6) UT Austin researchers chosen by the Director from a list of nominees selected to provide a balance of research expertise on the TAC. These researchers may be faculty, research scientists, research associates, or senior post-docs. The members serve staggered 3 year terms with 2 new members starting each January. The Assistant Director serves on an ex officio, non-voting basis and reviews the proposals for technical problems for the TAC. The Chair of the TAC is chosen by the Director.

A summary of the TAC's review comments is presented along with the summary ranking of the proposal. The proposals were graded by the TAC on a scale where A=1.0, B=2.0, C=2.0, D=4.0, and F=5.0. The following letter grade definitions are used as guidelines: A= Excellent science: (must be done, no deficiencies); B= Good Science: no deficiencies, (schedule time as requested); C= OK Science: but has deficiencies such as write-up, time justification, instrumentation; (schedule as possible); D= Poor Science: major deficiencies, (but should get some time if other programs don't need additional time); and F= Bad or inappropriate Science for McDonald telescopes and should not get any time.


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8 June 2010
McDonald Observatory · The University of Texas at Austin · Austin, Texas 78712
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