Community Access to 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 are being 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 part of the regular 2019A NOAO TAC process, with the same observing form, deadlines, and meeting dates as other NOAO resources. However, the observing period will begin and end 2 months earlier, running from 1 December 2018 - 31 May 2019.

Brief Overview of LCO

Las Cumbres Observatory began full-time science operations in May 2014. 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 Texas, China and the Canary Islands. Coverage (i.e. the 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. The first unit was deployed in early 2017. Spectrographs are operating at three sites (South Africa, Chile, Texas).  A fourth spectrograph has been installed (in Israel) and is expected to begin science observations during the 2019A semester. 

The observatory operates robotically. Each site decides when it is safe to open. Requested observations are scheduled by a single scheduling program that dynamically optimizes queues for each telescope. Note: 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. To benefit time-domain science, specialized scheduling modes are supported, including the ability to request cadence-driven observation sequences, as well as a "rapid-response" mode that triggers and observations to begin just a few minutes after a request is submitted, and a "time-critical" scheduling mode for observations that must be made at relatively tightly constrained times that rarely occur.

Data are pipeline-processed to remove instrumental signatures 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 four years. 

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 June 2019 and continuing through 30 November 2019.

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


Time period of observations:

Call for Proposals issued: 1 March 2019
Deadline for proposal submission to NOAO: 1 April 2019 at 11:59pm MST
TAC meets: 29 April - 2 May 2019
Outcome communicated to PIs: ~17 May 2019
2019B LCO Observation Dates: 1 June 2019 - 30 November 2019

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 February 27, 2019.