In addition, the value of the proposed research to the educational and career development of the investigators may be considered in exceptional circumstances.
For CTIO proposals, preference may be given to proposals which can only be carried out in the southern hemisphere.
The NSF's NOIRLab is committed to maximizing the accessibility of astronomy to all qualified proposers. Many of the telescopes available through NSF's NOIRLab support remote observing, and we are happy to discuss ways in which this mode can be employed to address specific issues of accessibility. To enquire about remote observing and other forms of access, and to request specific accommodation, please contact any of the following individuals:
The 2021B Call for Proposals covers proposals for observing programs at all ground-based facilities on which the NSF NOIRLab manages open-access observing time. Observing proposals for all telescopes, other than Gemini, must be submitted using the NSF NOIRLab Proposal Form, which is found at
An NSF NOIRLab proposal can either be prepared and submitted completely online or a LaTeX template can be completed locally and submitted via a web upload.
3. News and Updates for Semester 2021B
The following updatess to instrumentation and or observing time at all facilities available through NSF's NOIRLab are noted here to alert investigators preparing proposals.
3.1 NNEXPLORE in 2021B: Time Available on the WIYN 3.5m, the CTIO 1.5m with CHIRON, and MINERVA-Australis.
The NNEXPLORE program continues on the WIYN 3.5m, with approximately 30 nights available for exoplanet programs. See more details on WIYN in Section 3.5.
NNEXPLORE offers observing time on the CTIO/SMARTS 1.5m with the precision radial-velocity spectrometer CHIRON, with 300 hours (equivalent to 30 nights of service observing) of observing time in 2021B. See more details on the 1.5m/CHIRON in Section 3.6.
As part of the NNEXPLORE program, NASA is continuing in a partnership with the MINERVA-Australis consortium that began in 2020B. That agreement continues in Semester 2021B, with 300 hours of observing time open to NNEXPLORE proposals. MINERVA-Australis is a dedicated exoplanet observatory operated by the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in Queensland, Australia. The facility is located at USQ's Mt. Kent Observatory, and saw first light in quarter two 2018; commissioning of the facility was completed in mid-2019. MINERVA-Australis currently consists of 5 (0.7m) PlaneWave CDK700 telescopes; these telescopes have two ports, allowing each to be used for either spectroscopic or photometric observations. A summary of the facility and its capabilities can be found in the commissioning paper by Addison et al. 2019
The photometric channel is capable of milli-magnitude precision and currently, the light from four telescopes can be combined onto one R=75,000 echelle spectrograph for radial velocity precisions of 1 -10 m/s depending on the target brightness and how many telescopes are combined.
3.2 Gemini North and South
The Gemini Observatory has released a Call for Proposals for 2021B at:
The Gemini Call contains all of the information necessary to submit a Gemini proposal. We suggest strongly that you also read the Gemini CfP if you are requesting Gemini time to be aware of the latest news.
Proposers requesting Gemini time must use the Gemini Phase-I Tool (PIT):
The Gemini Phase I Tool (PIT) will automatically add the time for the baseline partner calibrations to the total time requested for each target in the proposal.
Gemini and Subaru are continuing their time-exchange program. A minimum of 5 nights will be available to the Gemini community, providing that there is sufficient demand from both sides of the exchange. Please see the Gemini call for proposals for more information. Proposers requesting Subaru time must use the Gemini Phase-I Tool (PIT).
3.3 Keck I and Keck II
Through the NSF's Mid-Scale Innovations Program (MSIP), NOIRLab observing time on Keck I and Keck II will be available for 8 semesters, beginning in 2021B. It is expected that approximately 5 nights per semester will be available; for 2021B, 3 nights on Keck I and 2 nights on Keck II are available.
Instrument availability, along with all relevant information, can be found at:
Special Notes and Consideration for 2021B:
Due to the likely continued impacts on the observatory and our observing community by COVID-19:
- We are advising proposers that there may be currently unforeseen impacts on our ability to execute the allocated 21B schedule. In particular, specialty modes (e.g. PyWFS, ESI IFU, VV coronagraphs) may be unavailable for operation.
- Some instruments and modes of instruments like NIRSPAO and ESI may be scheduled in limited blocks or campaigns to minimize load on support crews.
- In order to reduce the support load on observatory staff, partial night allocations in 21B may be limited. Proposers should consider whether full night allocations can meet their science goals.
LRISp: The polarimeter for LRIS will not be available in 2021B while it undergoes repair.
LRIS: Replacement of the LRIS red detector is expected in April 2021. We expect that there will be no restrictions on its use in 2021B.
- The vortex coronagraph in LGS mode is not available.
- The vortex coronagraph in K band is only available through collaboration with the vortex development team.
- The vortex coronagraph with the PyWFS is only available through collaboration with the PyWFS and vortex development teams.
Please, see the NIRC2 manual (https://www2.keck.hawaii.edu/inst/nirc2/ObserversManual.html#Section5.2.2) for information about vortex operations.
DEIMOS: The top-left CCD on the detector mosaic is ~4 times noisier than the rest of the CCDs. Please see https://www2.keck.hawaii.edu/inst/deimos/detector_issues.html for guidelines on how to design your MOS masks with this issue in mind.
At-Home (pajama mode) Observing:
- At-Home observing will continue to be available to observers
- Keck will support up to two observers for at home observing: one primary and one secondary observer. Those two individuals may help other team members get set up, but Keck support will be limited for additional observers.
- At home observing requires the installation of software which only runs on linux and macOS operating systems.
- Observers using at home observing should plan to work with Keck staff to install and test the software several days ahead of their run to allow time for troubleshooting.
3.4 Zwicky Transient Facility and ANTARES event brokering
The NSF MSIP-funded Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) is currently issuing public transient alerts. The two ZTF public surveys (https://www.ptf.caltech.edu/page/ztf_msip
) are (1) an all-sky survey with a three-night cadence and (2) a Galactic-plane survey with a nightly cadence. Both these surveys are expected to reach approximate point-source depths of r = 20.4 and g = 21.0. Further information can be found through the ZTF project website (https://www.ptf.caltech.edu/ztf
For 2021B, the NSF NOIRLab encourages submission of proposals for “target-of-opportunity” (ToO) follow-up observing triggered by ZTF alerts. Proposals should plan to use the current ToO policies and mechanisms for the facilities allocated through the NSF NOIRLab TAC. More information about current ToO policies and procedures at available open-access facilities can be found here:
Gemini Target of Opportunity observing:
CTIO Target of Opportunity observing:
SOAR Target of Opportunity observing
Las Cumbres Observatory scheduling (including ToO)
The NSF NOIRLab is currently filtering ZTF alerts through the ANTARES event
capabilities include positional and/or catalog-based filters with
associated delta-magnitude thresholds, as well as more complex
filters. Proposers interested in employing these ANTARES
capabilities within their programs during 2021A are encouraged to
proposal deadline. Support for ANTARES science verification programs
will be subject to availability of resources; depending on demand
during this initial call, it is possible that only a subset of
programs will be chosen for use with ANTARES.
The Mayall 4-m telescope is currently in the midst of survey observing with the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI). No time will be available through the NSF NOIRLab TAC.
Approximately 30 nights devoted to NNEXPLORE programs will be available for NOIRLab observing time in 2021B. More details on the NNEXPLORE Program on WIYN can be found at http://ast.noao.edu/observing/wiyn-exoplanets-2021b
Information specific to proposing for time using the precision radial-velocity spectrograph NEID can be found at http://ast.noao.edu/observing/wiyn-neid
Slides from an informational session on NEID for 2021B proposers can be found at
Open-access proposals other than NNEXPLORE can be submitted to WIYN, but these would only be scheduled if NNEXPLORE programs could not be scheduled for all of the NOIRLab WIYN time; in particular, proposals using Hydra or ODI might have the best chance to be fit into time slots that could not fit into the NNEXPLORE schedule.
No new proposals are solicited in 2021B for the 0.9m with HDI.
Nights available in 2021B for new regular programs is approximately 45.
Instruments available: In 2021B, CTIO will be offering the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) and the Cerro Tololo Ohio State Multi-Object Spectrograph (COSMOS):
Night time operations at the Blanco telescope resumed in October 2020, however visiting observers are not currently permitted nor are expected to be in the near future. All proposers should therefore plan to observe remotely during the whole of 2021B. See the Information on equipment and software requirements and how to carry out remote observations at Blanco at:
Note that we are waiving the requirement that all observers must have had previous observing experience at the telescope in order to carry out remote observations. However, we strongly encourage the involvement of experienced observers within your team in the planning and execution of your observations.
It is expected that approximately 49 nights of NOIRLab time will be availabler on SOAR for 2021B.
The SOAR website is located at:
Instruments: All instruments that were available in the previous two semesters, including TripleSpec 4.1, are currently available. See the Facilities Table in Sections 4.1 and 4.2 below for a list with links.
Queue scheduling: For semester 2021B, SOAR will continue to offer queue time through the AEON network (http://www.ctio.noao.edu/soar/content/soar-aeon-home-page
). Because we have a stable operation, we can now confidently support proposals that require the flexibility the AEON queue offers, in particular programs requiring small amounts of time spread over the semester, or where targets are not entirely predictable. AEON remains the recommended choice for programs with a large number of targets distributed over the sky, as well as those where monthly or bi-weekly cadences are required. We cannot commit to support higher cadences (e.g., weekly) unless demand increases sufficiently; exceptions may be possible where the higher cadence is only required for a portion of the semester. Note that we can and do support observations of solar system objects using non-sidereal tracking.
At present, we can only commit to supporting the Goodman spectrograph in 2021B, however we now support both red and blue cameras and can add configurations where demand warrants. Time is allocated based on TAC priority and the AEON queue is currently filled at 100%, so the expected fraction of clear time is the same as for classical observing. Investigators receiving time through all SOAR partners are eligible to participate; time continues to be allocated by the individual partners.
Please consult the AEON pages for further details and for contact information if you have questions the website doesn't answer.
Targets of Opportunity: SOAR support target of opportunity programs; for specifics of the policy see
SMARTS (1.5m with CHIRON and 0.9m with CFCCD)
Time on the small telescopes at CTIO will be available to NSF NOIRLab
users in 2021B. The telescopes are operated by the SMARTS Consortium
with up to 15% of time available to the NSF NOIRLab community. The
SMARTS web site is http://www.astro.gsu.edu/~thenry/SMARTS/.
The 1.5m + CHIRON (fiber-fed cross-dispersed echelle):
300 hours are available for the NNEXPLORE program, and assuming the
facility remains open for all of 2021B, 270 hours will be available
for scheduling by the NOIRLab TAC for non-NNEXPLORE programs. For
more information on the 1.5m, please contact Dr. Todd Henry at
email@example.com. Note that non-sidereal tracking is not
supported with CHIRON spectroscopy at the 1.5m; the only option for
non-sidereal targets is imaging via user time on the 0.9m.
The 0.9m + CFCCD:
The 0.9m can currently only be operated in user mode, so will not be
available in 2021B as long as visitor access to the site is restricted
because of the pandemic. It is very hard to predict if and when this
may change because it depends on the evolution of the pandemic, public
health regulations, and international travel restrictions. However,
during 2021A we have been able to execute some science programs under
an ad hoc service observing arrangement. We would try to continue
this in 2021B in the event that the site remains closed to visitor
access. We therefore encourage applications for time on the
understanding that it may not be possible to execute all, or any, of
the successful proposals. In the event that the site is open, up to
14 nights could be available for allocation by the NSF NOIRLab TAC.
For more information on the 0.9m, please contact Dr. Todd Henry at
3.7 Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO)
As in recent semesters, NOIR Lab time is available on both the 1m and 2m telescopes comprising the LCO global array. In Semester 2021B, 1250 hours of time are available on the 1m telescopes and 200 hours on the 2m telescopes. More information on LCO facilities can be found at:
3.8 CHARA (Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy)
As in recent semesters, 30 nights of observing time on CHARA are available through NOIRLab. More information on CHARA can be found at:
4. General Information about Facilities Available through NOIR Lab
4.1 Facilities List
4.2 Telescope and Instrument Lists (with Instrument Proposal Code and Web-link)
GMOS-N: Gemini Optical Imager, Multi-Object Spectrograph and IFU
The R600 grating will not be available in 2021B.
GNIRS: Gemini Near Infra-Red Spectrograph
GNIRS is expected to be available from Novermber through January. The short red camera is not available in 2021B. YJHK imaging is available via the acquisition keyhole.
GNIRS + Altair: Gemini Near Infra-Red Spectrograph with Natural Guide Star mode only AO system (Altair). If Gemini North can verify Laser Gudie Star functionality by 8 March 2021, this notice will be updated. Stay tuned.
NIFS: Near-IR IFU Spectrograph
NIFS + Altair: Near-IR IFU Spectrograph with Natural Gudie Star mode only AO system (Altair). If Gemini North can verify Laser Gudie Star functionality by 8 March 2021, this notice will be updated. Stay tuned.
NIRI: Near-Infrared Imager
NIRI + Altair: Near-IR Imager with Natural Gudie Star mode only AO system (Altair). If Gemini North can verify Laser Guide Star functionality by 8 March 2021, this page will be updated. Stay tuned.
'Alopeke: Speckle Camera (visiting instrument)
GRACES: Gemini Remote Access to CFHT ESPaDOnS Spectrograph (visiting instrument)
MAROON-X: Precision Radial-Velocity High-Reolution Spectrograph (visiting instrument)
Neither visiting instruments POLISH-2 nor TEXES will be offered in 2021B.
FLAMINGOS-2: Near-Infrared Wide Field Imager and Spectrometer (imaging and longslit modes only)
F2-MOS commissioning is underway and this mode may be offered through the Fast Turnaround program later during the semester. Stay tuned.
GMOS-S: Gemini Optical Imager, Multi-Object Spectrograph and IFU
The R600 grating is not available in 2021B.
GSAOI/GeMS: Gemini Adaptive Optics Imager with Multi-Conjugate AO System
Observations in IQ85 are possible for programs that use delivered images with a FWHM~0.2 arcseconds, as opposed to the <0.1 arcseconds delivered in IQ70 or IQ20 conditions. Proposals requesting IQ85 are encouraged. Observations under non-photometric conditions with 0.1 mag uniform extinction are also possible under very good IQ conditions. The expectation is to have two or three laser runs of 7 nights each during 2021B; the actual schedule will be based on community demand.
Zorro: Speckle Camera (visiting Instrument)
The scheduling and length of Zorro visiting blocks will be subject to community demand.
IGRINS: High-Resolution Near-IR Cross-Dispersed Echelle Spectrometer (visiting instrument)
The scheduling and length of IGRINS visiting blocks will be subject to community demand.
Subaru (Gemini Exchange time)
AO 188 (Subaru 188-element Adaptive Optics system) is available but only in Natural Guide Star mode, LGS-AO is not offered..
FOCAS: Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph; the IFU mode is available.
HDS: High Dispersion Spectrograph (optical).
HSC: Hyper Suprime-Cam Wide-Field Optical Imager: queue is the primary mode. Classical mode is also accepted. The requested time should include overheads and be in multiples of one hour.
IRCS: IR Camera and Spectrograph: all polarimetry mode of IRCS is open as a shared-risk mode.
IRCS+AO188: IRCS + Natural and Laser Guide Star AO: unavailable in August and September, and available from October through January. The polarimetry mode is a shared-risk mode.
MOIRCS: Multi-Object IR Camera and Spectrograph: has been hibernated during SWIMS operation (see note below for SWIMS).
Visiting Instruments on Subaru offered in 2021B (limited to one or two runs). Proposals to use visiting instruments must include the instrument PIs as Co-investigators.
CHARIS: Coronagraphic High Angular Resolution Imaging Spectrograph - provides high contrast images of exoplanets, disks, brown dwarfs with SCExAO+AO188. https://scholar.princeton.edu/charis
Fast PDI (in shared-risk mode): availability to be confirmed in April. Polarization differential imaging (PDI) with a high speed (>kHz) near-IR (950 - 1860 nm) low-noise camera (C-RED One), optimized for high contrast imaging of circumstellar disks with SCExAO+AO188.
IRD: Infrared high-dispersion, high resolution (up to 70,000) fiber-fed spectrometer. IRD provides high spectral resolution echelle spectroscopy and radial velocity measurements from 0.97 to 1.75 um simultaneously combined with AO188. IRD is available only in shared-risk. IRD SSP started in 2019A – any IRD proposal must clarify how its scientific aim is different from SSP. http://ird.mtk.nao.ac.jp/IRDpub/index_tmp.html . The observing mode, REACH (SCExAO+IRD), is available: http://secondearths.sakura.ne.jp/reach/
MEC (in shared-risk mode): availability to be confirmed in April. The MKID Exoplanet Camera (MEC) is a near-IR (800 - 1400 nm) photon-counting low-resolution (R~5) integral-field spectrograph optimized for high-contrast imaging with SCExAO+AO188.
SWIMS: Simultaneous-color Wide-field Infrared Multi-object Spectrograph - an imager and multi-object spectrograph in the NIR wavelength region. SWIMS proposals cannot request MOIRCS as a backup instrument. http://www.ioa.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp/TAO/swims/?Summary_for_Subaru_S21A_CfP
VAMPIRES: The Visible Aperture Masking Polarimetric Imager for Resolved Exoplanetary Strucutres is a visible light instrument on the SCExAO system. https://www.naoj.org/Projects/SCEXAO/scexaoWEB/030openuse.web/040vampires.web/indexm.html
NsIRWave Plate Unit: for IRCS/SCExAO polarimetry mode. https://subarutelescope.org/Observing/Instruments/IRCS/polarimetry/polarimetry.html
CTIO 4m Blanco
DECam: Wide-Field Optical Imager
COSMOS: CTIO Ohio State Multi-Object Spectrograph
Goodman: Goodman Spectrograph
SOI: SOAR Optical Imager
TripleSpec4.1 (ex-ARCOIRIS): Cross-dispersed, single-object, longslit, IR imaging spectrograph
Spartan: Spartan IR Imager
SAM: SOAR Adaptive Module
HRCAM: High-Resolution Camera
SAMHR: SAM + HRCAM
SIFS: SOAR Integral Field Spectrograph
NEID: NN-EXPLORE Exoplanet Investigations with Doppler spectroscopy, precision RV spectrograph
ODI: One Degree Imager (40' x 48' focal plane)
HYDRB: Hydra + Bench Spectrograph + STA1 CCD, Blue camera
HYDRR: Hydra + Bench Spectrograph + STA1 CCD, Red camera
SPSPKB: SparsePak Fiber Array + Bench Spectrograph + STA1 CCD, Blue camera
SPSPKR: SparsePak Fiber Array + Bench Spectrograph + STA1 CCD, Red camera
WHIRC: WIYN High Resolution IR Camera
GRDPK: GradPak IFU
HEXPK: HexPak IFU
NESSI: NASA Exoplanet Star (and) Speckle Imager
CLASSIC: IR (H or K) Imaging
CLIMB: IR (H or K) Imaging
MIRC: Low-resolution H-band Spectroscopy
PAVO: Low-resolution Optical Spectroscopy
VEGA: Medium-resolution and High-resolution Optical Spectroscopy
LCO-2m Global Network
Spectral: Optical Imager
FLOYDS: Cross-dispersed Low-resolution Spectrograph
LCO-1m Global Network
Sinistro: Optical Imager
NRES: High-resolution Fiber-fed Echelle Spectrograph
CHIRON: High-resolution Fiber-fed Cross-dispersed Echelle Spectrograph for Precision RV
CFIM+T2K: Cass Direct + SITe 2K CCD
HDI: Half-Degree Imager
5. How to Acknowledge Use of NSF's NOIRLab Facilities
There are a variety of credit lines which are appropriate for citing the use of data from one or more of the NOIRLab facilities. Please acknowledge the proper observatories by using the appropriate credit line as described in the following link: