Applying for ESO observing time

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has released the Call for Proposals for Period 106 (for observations between 1 October 2020 – 31 March 2021). Under the terms of the Strategic Partnership between ESO and Australia, Australian-based astronomers have access to the facilities of the La Silla and Paranal Observatories, specifically the:

  • 3.6-m telescope (3.6);
  • New Technology Telescope (NTT);
  • Very Large Telescope (VLT);
  • Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI);
  • Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA); and
  • VLT Survey Telescope (VST).

Proposals for ESO time (in late August, Oct and Dec 2020) to use the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX) antenna on Chajnantor will also be considered on the same basis as those from any ESO member state.

Owing to the COVID-19 situation, the original proposal deadline of 26 March 2020 has now been extended to Thursday 23 April 2020 at noon Central European Summer Time (8pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, 6pm Australian Western Standard Time).

Complete details on how to apply can be found at the P106 Call for Proposals web page. All applicants should consult the Call for Proposals document for Period 106, and will require an ESO User Portal account to submit proposals.

A wealth of information for Australian applicants can be found on AAL’s Australian ESO Forum. Any questions about policies or the practical aspects of proposal preparation should be addressed to the ESO Observing Programmes Office, [email protected]. Applicants who may wish to seek advice on proposal or observing strategies, optimal choice of instrument, etc. are invited to contact AAL’s ESO Program Manager at [email protected].

ESO will normally only cover the observing expenses for 1 observer per Visitor Mode run. However there have been cases where ESO has agreed to waive the costs of flights and accommodation within Chile for a student who accompanies their supervisor, particularly if the student is able to cover the costs for getting to and from Chile. Supervisors awarded observing time at La Silla Paranal Observatory in Visitor Mode are encouraged to contact the Visiting Astronomers section with any request for student support before submitting their Travel Form.

What’s new in Period 106?
Applicants are strongly encouraged to review the expected changes in instrumentation offered and procedures for Period 106 given in Sec. 1.1 of the Call for Proposals. Among the items likely to be of most interest to the Australian community are:

  • New web-based proposal submission tool: Period 105 marked the transition away from the traditional ESOFORM LaTeX proposal file, to a new web-based Phase 1 tool (“p1”). Among the many new features on offer are the ability for the PI and Co-Is to edit proposals collaboratively; pull-down menus for selecting instrument options; querying Simbad for target information; and the ability to update submitted proposals right up to the deadline! See the ESO Messenger article for an overview of the new features, and try out the p1demo tool. Applicants who submitted a proposal in P105 using p1 will be able to “clone” the proposal for P106, which will pre-populate most of the fields and highlight those fields that will need to be updated.
  • New Large Programme proposals accepted in P106: Since Period 104, Large Programme proposals are only being accepted once per year during even Periods. Large Programmes can be requested to start either in P106 or in P107, but the programme can extend at most over four consecutive semesters (currently up to Period 109). ESO strives to execute Large Programmes over shorter periods of time (aiming at two semesters by default), while maintaining the ceiling set by ESO Council of 30% of the observing time allocated to Large Programmes. To that end Large Programme requests should not extend over a number of Periods larger than that set by their scientific requirements. All ongoing Large Programmes at the 3.6-m telescope will be completed during Period 105; therefore, Large Programme proposals for HARPS are encouraged.
  • Updating of ESO User Portal Profiles: ESO is now requesting all science users provide more detailed information in their User Portal profile, including gender, year of PhD, ORCID and a series of keywords for specifying scientific and technical expertise. Users failing to do this will not be able to submit a proposal as PI and/or as CoI in P106.
  • ESO Proposal Anonymisation: ESO strongly encourages applicants to begin formulating the scientific rationales in their proposals taking into account the anonymisation rules and principles of Dual-Anonymous Peer Review (DAPR). While DAPR will be implemented in full in the future and proposal anonymisation is not mandatory in Period 106, applicants should use this opportunity as a “dry run” to practice writing proposals in the required style.
  • Visitor focus availability: The Nasmyth A focus of UT1 is available for a Visitor Instrument during Period 106 until the start of preparatory work for the arrival of MOONS. In addition, a visitor focus for an interferometric instrument is available in the VLTI laboratory. Interested users should consult Section 3 of the Call for Proposals.
  • Survey Telescopes availability: P106 and P107 are the last periods for which the operation of the VST is guaranteed under the current agreement between ESO and INAF. P107 is also expected to be the last period of VIRCAM operations before the start of the modifications required at VISTA for the installation of 4MOST.
  • SOFI availability: The installation and commissioning of SoXS (the Son of X-Shooter) on the NTT is expected to start during P106. As a consequence, SOFI will be decommissioned one month beforehand.
  • nFLASH: Pending a successful commissioning in Q1 2020 nFLASH on APEX will contain two receivers replacing the PI230 and FLASH receivers: nFLASH230 (200-270 GHz) and nFLASH460 (385-500 GHz). Both are dual polarization receivers, and can only be used independently in P106.