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Vacant Time

In the case where the 2.7m, 2.1m, and 0.8m telescopes are not fully scheduled at the conclusion of the TAC process and publishing of the next trimester's schedule, observers may apply for the vacant time. Unless there is a large amount of vacant time, in which case we will announce a new proposal time period and reopen the web site, you may apply for any vacant time by sending Anita Cochran ( a proposal via email. The proposal should include a few paragraph science justification along with the desired dates and instrumentation. For those users wanting to extend their scheduled observing runs, an email request is sufficient. All valid requests will be processed approximately two weeks after publication of the schedule with conflicts being presented to the TAC for resolution.

Amendments to the telescope schedules are regularly posted across from RLM 15.208 and on the McDonald web site. Observers are requested to check these postings prior to submitting vacant time proposals.

Instrumentation Familiarization (Training): Texas and non-Texas Observers

A portion of the observing time on each telescope at McDonald Observatory is made available to competitive proposals from researchers at other institutions, especially those at institutions collaborating with McDonald in the Hobby•Eberly Telescope (HET), (see below).

It is imperative that the Principal Investigators take into account the need for the actual observer to be trained on McDonald equipment. A summary of our adopted procedures follows:
  1. Extensive information is required on the McDonald proposal form about the observing experience and command of English by the actual observer. This part of the proposal must be filled out by all potential new observers, whether non-Texas or local. The intent is to raise the level of competence required of new observers, regardless of home institution.

  2. The McDonald TAC is careful in assigning telescope time to lower ranked proposals, even if the telescope sits idle. The intent is to reduce the workload on the mountain staff when that observing effort would not lead to important research results.

  3. It is our tradition that new Texas observers are trained by apprenticeship with an experienced observer. Texas and non-Texas observers are strongly encouraged to follow this tradition. The training of new observers will be monitored by requiring the person performing the training, notifying Observing Support at McDonald of a successful outcome of the training sessions prior to the new observer being allowed to operate the instrument in a solo mode. The intent is to ensure the training process is taken seriously by the new observer.

  4. Both Texas and non-Texas observers are required to abide by the commitments made in the submitted proposal. Time granted to new observers is contingent upon the actual observer successfully completing the training plan approved in the proposal process. Observers will be given a specific amount of time to arrange training, and failing to achieve that goal, telescope time granted to that observer will be withdrawn. A training plan will consist of at least 2 nights observing on the telescope/instrument prior to the start of the observing run, or (2) having a qualified observer present for the first two nights of the observing run, or (3) the observer's agreement to hire a named, qualified Texas graduate student as a trainer or co-observer.

  5. McDonald is not funded at a level, which permits us to have astronomers on-site to train you at any time during your run; the on-site personnel are experts in the maintenance and repair of the instrumentation and are not experts on the astronomical operation of that instrumentation. However, the Observing Support staff will be available on the first afternoon of your observing run to go over any changes in the operation of the telescope, software, and/or instrumentation since your last visit. Successful and qualified observers will be expected to basically operate in a "self reliant mode" after initial checkout on the instrumentation and telescope.

All new or untrained observers are required to respond to Anita Cochran ( via email within two weeks of notification of a successful observing program and to present a detailed and previously arranged plan of how they will accomplish the training they committed to in their proposal (see item (4) above). The telescope time granted by the TAC is contingent on the approval of the training plan; otherwise the assigned time reverts back to vacant time and will be made available to other proposers. Proposers should also note the requirement to notify Anita of any change of the actual observer (see TAC review form) as the telescope time was granted under this restriction.


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2 March 2006
McDonald Observatory · The University of Texas at Austin · Austin, Texas 78712
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