Guide to NuSTAR Cycle 1 Proposers


  • November 14th, 2014 — Extend Deadline for Stray Light Contamination Analysis
  • May, 2015 — Add information about Phase 2 (Budget) Proposals

Table of Contents

1. Overview

This Announcement of Opportunity (AO) solicits Guest Observer proposals for NuSTAR. Approximately 6.5 Ms of time will be available in the observing period April 1, 2015 - March 31, 2016. $1.5M in funding will be made available to support the analysis of targets accepted at priority A or B. Priority C targets will be observed on a "best-effort" basis. Target proposals will be considered from both US and foreign PIs. Only PIs affiliated with, and located at, a US institution will be eligible for funding for accepted NuSTAR proposals through NASA. In addition, up to 500 ks of Suzaku observing time will be made available for coordinated observations with NuSTAR.

2. Deadline

Proposals are due no later than 4:30 pm EST on Tuesday, November 25, 2014.

3. Proposal Elements and Submission Method

Additional details concerning Cycle 1 are given in the NuSTAR AO. There will be a two-phase proposal process. Phase one is for observing proposals. Phase two is for budget proposals for successful phase one proposers who were awarded priority A or B targets. Only observing proposals will be accepted at this time.

Proposal submission is done via the HEASARC ARK/RPS on-line system. Hard-copy submission is not required. The following elements are required:

  • Proposal form (cover page & general form, and one or more pages of the Target form) generated by, and submitted through, ARK/RPS.
  • Scientific justification in PDF format, not exceeding 4 pages for a regular proposal, to be uploaded through ARK/RPS.

The following is optional:

  • A 1-page vita of the PI, to be appended at the end of the scientific justification file.

The following should not be submitted:

  • The PI's institution's own cover page.
  • Formatted electronic copies of the ARK/RPS form.
  • Hard copies of any of the above, including electronically required elements.

4. Some Key Details of the Proposal Form

New NuSTAR PIs must first create an ARK account and/or join the NuSTAR RPS group. Having done so, the NuSTAR RPS form can be accessed via ARK/RPS.

We provide below some key details for NuSTAR Cycle 1. For further details, consult the ARK/RPS help file.

Cover Page
  • To facilitate checking for conflicts of interest during the peer review process, the co-I's institution must be chosen from the menu (thereby enforcing a uniform set of names). Please check the list of institutions and contact the RPS team as soon as possible if your co-I's institution is not on this list.
  • If there are NASA civil servants among the team (as either PI or co-I), then their estimated level of effort in FTEs must be entered into the form. Enter 0 if there is no NASA civil servant on the team.
  • Institutional endorsement is not required by NASA in NuSTAR phase 1 proposals. Use the endorsement-related entries only if they are required or desired by the PI's institution.
  • Up to 25 co-investigators can be entered into the RPS form. Only the first 10 will appear on the PDF versions of the form. The full list will be available for conflict checking and will be provided to proposal reviewers.
  • In addition to investigations utilizing NuSTAR observations only, proposals involving coordinated observations with the Suzaku X-ray observatory can also be proposed during Cycle 1. Proposals for joint NuSTAR-Suzaku observations should be indicated by clicking the Joint proposal section of the ARK/RPS form, and inputting the requested Suzaku exposure time in each target form.
  • Joint proposals for NuSTAR observations with Chandra or XMM-Newton cannot be submitted in response to this AO. However, NuSTAR does have separate agreements with Chandra and XMM-Newton for coordinated observations. Please see the main Proposals and Tools page for more information.
General Form
  • Target of Opportunity (ToO) proposals will not be accepted in response to this AO. ToO requests can be submitted directly to the NuSTAR project; please refer to the NuSTAR ToO Policy for more information.
Target Form
  • Time Constraints: A target is considered as "Time Constrained" if any of the following sections of the target form are marked as 'Yes':
    • Position angle dependent
    • Moving Object
    • Monitoring Program
    • Phase Dependent
    • Time Constrained
    See the NuSTAR RPS help page for more information about these fields. In addition, observations coordinated with other ground- or space-based observatories are considered as time constrained.

    Note that time-constrained observations must be designated as Priority A by the proposal review panel to guarantee scheduling. Time-constrained observations designated as category B or C will be executed on a best-efforts basis. All time-constrained observations must be able to be completed within the Cycle 1 observing period (April 1 2015 to March 31 2016).

  • Proposers should include a summary of details that are necessary for scheduling and observation planning (constraints, observing mode) in the Remarks box for each target.
  • Sources with fluxes > 10-11 ergs s-1 cm-2 within 5° of the target may cause increased non-uniform background gradients due to stray light. Users should check observations for potential stray light contributions using the tool that is available at the NuSTAR Researchers' web site. If a field is designated as "heavily contaminated", proposers should submit a request for a feasibility analysis to at least 48 hours prior to the proposal submission deadline.
  • The minimum exposure for NuSTAR targets is 20 ks. If the proposer is also requesting Suzaku time, the minimum Suzaku exposure time is 10 ks.

After completing all fields for a proposal in ARK/RPS, use the Verify button to confirm that all required entries exist and conform to the expected format. Forms that pass verification can then be submitted. ARK/RPS allows PIs to continue to modify submitted proposals until the deadline, so there is no penalty for submitting the proposal form early.

The LaTeX, PostScript, and PDF buttons of ARK/RPS can be used to generate formatted versions of the proposal forms. Although it is often useful for the PIs to keep formatted copies of the forms for the record, it is not a required part of the proposal submission process.

5. Scientific Justification

  • The scientific justification for a regular program must not exceed 4 Letter size pages.
  • Optionally, an additional page containing the PI's vita can be included.
  • Proposals must use a font having no more than 15 characters per inch (horizontally), typical of font Times New Roman 12. The scientific justification can be generated using the software of the PI's choice, as long as it is converted to PDF format before submission.
  • We suggest that proposers use the LaTeX template or the Word template for the scientific justification. When using these templates, the user should double-check that the top, botton, right and left margins are at least 1 inch.
  • Proposals should include a description of the scientific objectives; justify the choice of target(s); show that existing data (previous X-ray observations or at other wavelengths) are insufficient to achieve the objectives; justify the choice of NuSTAR over other existing observatories (preferably linked to some unique characteristic of NuSTAR); and demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed observation and analysis.
  • Proposals for targets already observed by NuSTAR are allowed, but must include a justification for an additional observation, such as a much longer exposure, different pointing position within an extended object, or different observing window for a variable object. Observed and/or approved NuSTAR targets can be found using the HEASARC/Browse numaster table or by using NuSTAR As-Flown Timeline.
  • The length of the observation should be justified based on the specific scientific objectives, preferably using simulations or scaled from prior NuSTAR observations of a similar source. However, the minimum NuSTAR observing time for a target is set at 20 ksec.

5. Phase 2 (Budget) Proposals

After peer evaluation, certain selected proposals are eligible for grant NASA funding. Only selected proposals from PIs at US institutions with targets ranked as Category A or Category B are eligible for grant funding. US co-Is on proposals with non-US PIs are not eligible for funding. Phase 2 (budget) proposals are submitted through NASA's NSPIRES system.

All proposing PIs were notified on April 17th of the results of the Phase 1 selection process, in a letter from NASA Headquarters by email. Those PIs who are eligible for funding received additional instructions in the lettter on how and what to submit in a Phase 2 proposal. As with all NASA ROSES proposals, final institutional submission is required. Please leave enough time for your institutional process. If your institution requires a NASA grant solicitation number, it is NNH14ZDA001N-NUSTAR1.

Please note that after notification letters were sent to PIs, the Phase 2 budget proposal deadline was extended to May 29th, 2015. This revised deadline is reflected within the NSPIRES submission system.

Phase 2 proposals will be evaluated in July, 2015, and funds will be released to selected investigators shortly thereafter.

To submit a Stage 2 proposal, follow these basic steps:

  1. Log on to NSPIRES. If you do not have an NSPIRES account, you will need to create one and affiliate with your institution.
  2. On your NSPIRES home page, click on "Proposals/NOIs."
  3. Click the "▸Create Proposal" button.
  4. Select "Solicitation." Even though your proposal has already been selected via phase 1, do not select "Prior-phase Proposal."
  5. Select "NuSTAR Guest Observer - Cycle 1" (NNH14ZDA001N-NUSTAR1)
  6. Enter proposal information and your institutional affiliation.
  7. When proposal elements are complete, use the "Release to Org" button to release the proposal to your institutional proposal office.
  8. Your institutional proposal office must then perform the final proposal submission.

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