Community Access to Las Cumbres Observatory

The Las Cumbres Observatory – NSF Agreement

Las Cumbres Observatory (LCOGT) and NSF have entered into an agreement through which time on LCOGT 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.

The NSF OIR Lab has responsibility for community liaison, supporting community science, and assigning time through the NSF OIR Lab Telescope Allocation Committee (TAC) process. This Call for Proposals (CfP) is part of the regular 2020B NSF OIR Lab TAC process, with the same observing form, deadlines, and meeting dates as other NSF OIR Lab resources. However, the observing period will begin 1 month earlier, running from 1 July 2020 - 31 January 2021. 

Brief Overview of LCOGT

Las Cumbres Observatory began full-time science operations in May 2014. The LCOGT network comprises 11 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.  Two 1-meter tlescopes will be installed on the Canary Islands in July 2020.  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.   The NRES, a set of fiber-coupled R=50,000 spectrographs, has units installed on 1m telescopes in Chile, Texas, South Africa, and Israel.

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 5 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 LCOGT website. The website also has links to tools for planning or requesting observations.

The LCOGT network has been fully scheduled for science for well over 6 years. 

Replying to this NSF OIR Lab/LCOGT 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 July 2020 and continuing through 31 January 2021.

Proposals are to be submitted using the standard NSF OIR Lab Observing Proposal Form. Please review our LCOGT guidelines before starting a proposal.


Time period of observations:

Call for Proposals issued: 1 March 2020
Deadline for proposal submission to NOAO: 7 April 2020 at 11:59pm MST
TAC meets: 4 - 8 May 2020
Outcome communicated to PIs: ~15 June 2020
2020A LCOGT Observation Dates: 1 July 2020 - 31 January 2021

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

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

(An earlier version of this page referred to Las Cumbres Observatory by the acronym LCO. This has been updated to LCOGT to avoid confusion with Las Campanas Observatory.)

Last updated or reviewed April 6, 2020.