Proposals Invited for Las Cumbres Observatory

The Las Cumbres Observatory – NSF Agreement

Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) and NSF have entered into an agreement through which time on LCO telescopes is being made available to the community at large. Funding for this program is being provided through NSF/AST's Mid-Scale Innovations Program (MSIP). Starting in 2017, approximately 1220 hours of 1-meter time and 220 hours of 2-meter time per semester will be allocated over a period of seven semesters.

NOAO has responsibility for community liaison, supporting community science, and assigning time through the NOAO Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC) process. This Call for Proposals (CfP) is a special call that is out of sync with the usual NOAO semester call (where the 2017B CfP will be posted on 1 March 2017 and proposals due on 31 March 2017); however the next LCO CfP will be incorporated into the regular NOAO TAC schedule for 2018A (in September 2017). The time scale for this special CfP has a proposal deadline of 10 February 2017, with the NOAO/LCO TAC panel meeting on 10 March 2017, successful PIs will be notified on 15 March 2017, and observing to commence on 1 April 2017.

Brief Overview of LCO

The LCO network comprises nine 1-m and two 2-m optical telescopes, optimized for time-domain studies, and operated as a single observatory. There are 2-m telescopes in Australia and Hawaii, and 1-m telescopes in Texas, Chile, Australia, and South Africa. Additional 1-m telescopes are planned for China and the Canary Islands. Coverage (ability to observe continuously over 24 hours) is complete in the southern hemisphere, and upcoming deployments, in progress or planned, will make it complete in the north.

The 2-m telescopes are instrumented with 10 arcminute field-of-view imagers and R=500 spectrographs. The 1-m telescopes are instrumented with 26 arcminute field-of-view imagers. A set of fiber-coupled, R=50,000 spectrographs is nearing completion, and deployment to the 1-m sites will begin by the end of 2016. These spectrographs are expected to be deployed to at least four sites by the end of 2017 and will provide significant capacity for radial velocity measurements. For this initial call, the R=50,000 spectrographs are offered as "shared-risk" for southern-hemisphere observations only.

The observatory operates robotically, with requested observations scheduled by single scheduling program that dynamically optimizes queues for each telescope. Each site decides when it is safe to open; note that dynamic network scheduling is a powerful concept - observations are literally moved from telescope to telescope or even site to site in real time, to optimize a global schedule merit function. Data are pipeline processed to remove instrumental signature and may be downloaded from an archive, through a web form or a programmatic API in as little as 15 minutes after the shutter closes. After 12 months, proprietary data becomes public. Additional, detailed information about sites, telescopes, and instrument capabilities and performance is available on the LCO website The website also has links to tools for planning or requesting observations.

The LCO network has been fully scheduled for science for well over two years. Capabilities include the ability to request cadence-driven observation sequences from occasional to continuous, and a rapid-response mode that is able to begin an observation within a few minutes of a request.

Replying to this NOAO/LCO Call for Proposals

Specific goals for the use of this community open-access time are:

  1. Effectively follow up on current time domain surveys, especially those with public distribution of data and alerts.
  2. Help the community prepare for time domain research in the LSST era by developing relevant programs, methods, and technologies.


This call for proposals covers the time period for observations beginning on 1 April 2017 and continuing through 30 November 2017.

Proposals are to be submitted using the standard NOAO Observing Proposal Form. Please review our LCO guidelines before starting a proposal.


Call for Proposals issued: 3 January 2017
Deadline for proposal submission to NOAO: 10 February 2017 at 11:59pm MST
TAC meets: 10 March 2017
Outcome communicated to PIs: 15 March 2017
Time period of observations: 1 April 2017 - 30 November 2017

Questions or comments about applying for LCO time offered in this call can be sent to Verne Smith (

Questions about technical or operational aspects of the LCO capabilities can be sent to

Last updated or reviewed January 26, 2017.