MCDONALD OBSERVATORY
TELESCOPE SCHEDULING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
 


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The second part of the proposal zooms in on the specific subject of the proposed observations. Which specific question do you want to tackle with your proposal? The third part gives a brief non-technical description of the proposed observations (the technical part is addressed later) and explains how these observations answer the goal of the proposal. It is important here to be both specific and realistic. Thus to state that a measurement of the B-V color of the target will determine the amount of dark matter in the Universe will not impress the panel unless you are able to specify through which steps you can do this. It is this part of the proposal which will to a large extent determine your standing with the panel. A realistic assessment of the expected results will show the panel that your scientific judgment is sound; an exaggerated claim will not.

If the method of analysis and/or interpretation has been described in an article, you may limit yourself to a brief outline, and provide a reference for the full detail. If the article only exists as a preprint, provide a web site or an ftp address where the preprint in question can be obtained. The panel should be provided with enough information to assess how reliable your proposed methods are.

Points of interest

When writing a proposal, it is advisable to keep in mind the following points.
  • Who will be interested in your results?
    Maybe only the proposer... but maybe all astronomers working on the same object, on the same class of objects, and indeed maybe many astronomers in different fields of interest. It is useful if you assess this in the proposal. The wider the possible interest in your results, the higher the ranking of your proposal.
  • Do you have theoretical backup?
    If so, the value of your proposal is enhanced. For example, if your proposal aims to determine the element abundances in an M dwarf or an S0 galaxy, it will be useful if you can show that you have the ability to obtain theoretical line strengths as a function of abundance. If you wish to determine the amount of dark matter in a cluster of galaxies, it helps if you can show that you have simulations which indicate that the proposed data will suffice to do this.
  • Are you capable of handling the data?
    An indication of this is always useful; it is mandatory if the data analysis is complicated and not straightforward. The best way to show that you can do the job is to refer to your track record in the form of earlier publications. If this doesn't exist, because you are embarking on a new field, you may wish to propose a pilot study first so as to be able to show your mettle.
  • Statistics
    You should show awareness of the statistical aspects of your proposed observations. For example, if ten similar systems have been observed, and you propose to observe number eleven, you must assess how much can be learned from the one new system that hasn't been learned yet from the previous ten. If a hundred systems have been observed, and you propose to observe ten more, you cannot claim that the statistics will be improved dramatically, unless you show that the proposed targets cover a range of parameters that is not well covered by the earlier observations.
  • Target selection
    It is useful to explain why you selected your specific target(s). For example, if you wish to determine the amount of dark matter in the galaxy cluster Abell A2218, explain why this cluster is a better target than other clusters. Possible answers to explore include
    • the galaxies in this cluster are bright and can be observed in relatively short exposures
    • many velocities have been measured already, to which your data can be usefully added
    • simulations show that the galaxies in this cluster are well distributed to determine the dark matter distribution
    • the amount of dark matter has already been determined with another method, to which our results can be compared usefully.




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3 November 2003
McDonald Observatory · The University of Texas at Austin · Austin, Texas 78712
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