Guide to NuSTAR Cycle 3 Proposers


    The proposal due date is January 27, 2017

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 June 1, 2017 - May 31, 2018. $1.5M in funding will be made available to support the analysis of targets accepted at priority A, B or C . Priority C targets will be observed on a "best-effort" basis. Target proposals will be considered from both US and foreign PIs. Data from approved GO observations, with the exception of Target of Opportunity (ToO) observations, have a nominal one-year exclusive-use period commencing at the time of receipt of the processed data by the observer. Data from peer review approved ToO observations have a six-month exclusive-use period. 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 1.5 Ms of XMM observing time will be made available for coordinated observations with NuSTAR.

2. Deadline

Proposals are due no later than 4:30 pm EST on Friday, January 27, 2017.

3. What's New in AO3 / Clarifications

Conflicts with Legacy Survey Targets
Observations of targets proposed through Cycle 3 Call for Proposals will take precedence over legacy program observations of those targets. However, proposed GO observations of legacy targets that are not accepted as part of the Cycle 3 program will be restored to the legacy program.

Target of Opportunity (ToO) Proposals of Source Samples
Proposals for ToO observations that can be triggered from a class of objects or a sample of potential targets are permitted. See details under Target Form below.

Target of Opportunity (ToO) Response Time
Proposals with a preferred response time < 48 hours will be evaluated based on the assumption that the minimum response time is 48 hours. A more rapid response time than 48 hours will be accommodated on a best-effort basis.

Observations of Bright Sources
The total time available for observation of bright sources (> 100 count/s, both modules, 50% PSF, no deadtime) will be about 1 Msec. Exposures > 30 ks need specific justification. Exposures > 75 ks will be implemented distributed over multiple observations, each with exposure < 75 ks and separated by more than 1 week. For more details see AO section 1.3.1.

4. Proposal Elements and Submission Method

Additional details concerning Cycle 3 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 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.

5. 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 3. For further details, consult the ARK/RPS help file.

Cover Page
  • 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.
  • In addition to investigations utilizing NuSTAR observations only, proposals involving coordinated observations with the XMM-Newton observatory can also be proposed during Cycle 3. Proposals for joint NuSTAR-XMM observations should be indicated by clicking the Joint proposal section of the ARK/RPS form, and inputting the requested XMM exposure time in each target form. Proposers may submit the same proposal to XMM AO-16 and NuSTAR Cycle 3. However, the XMM-Newton AO-16 approved program will be taken into account during the NuSTAR Phase 1 review and duplicate observations of the same targets by NuSTAR will typically not be awarded.
  • Joint proposals for NuSTAR observations with Chandra cannot be submitted in response to this AO. However, NuSTAR does have separate agreements with Chandra for coordinated observations. Please see the main Proposals and Tools page for more information.
General Form
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Note that bilateral collaborations between scientists affiliated with institutions from the USA and the People's Republic of China (PRC) are not allowed by United States Federal law. Multilateral collaborations that involve scientists from institutions in the USA, the PRC, and other countries are allowed, however. Please refer to the PRC FAQ for ROSES for details.
  • Target of Opportunity (ToO) proposals will be accepted in response to this AO.
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 designated Category A or B will be given highest priority for scheduling during Cycle 3. Time-constrained observations of Category C targets will be executed on a best-effort basis. Time-constrained Category A and B observations not scheduled during Cycle 3 may be carried over to Cycle 4 where warranted by scientific or operational circumstances (e.g., in the case of coordinated observations with other space- or ground-based observatories). Category C time-constrained observations not scheduled during Cycle 3 will not be carried over to Cycle 4.

  • 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 SOC web site. If a field is designated as having a "Potential stray light issue", proposers should submit a request for a feasibility analysis to at least 2 business days prior to the proposal submission deadline.
  • The minimum exposure for NuSTAR targets is 20 ks. If the proposer is also requesting XMM time, the minimum XMM exposure time is 5 ks.
  • Estimated Count Rates: Expected total band (3-79 keV) count rate of the source in counts/second for both modules in a 50% PSF extraction with no deadtime. Note that the time available for observations of bright sources (100 counts/second) is limited to 1 Msec.
  • Target of Opportunity (ToOs): A total of up to 500 ks of NuSTAR Cycle 3 observing time will be made available for proposals to observe ToOs. For ToO observations that are to be triggered from a class of objects or from a sample of potential targets: Complete one target form per trigger only, specifying "0.0" for both the R.A. and Dec. fields, and, if applicable, enter a list of target names in the TOO Remarks field. If the list of targets is too long to fit in the TOO Remarks field, include the complete list in the scientific justification instead and put a note in the TOO Remarks to look there for the list. Remember that ToO proposals will not be accepted for either a core collapse supernova in the Local Group or a Type 1a closer than the Virgo Cluster. Also note that it is the responsibility of the PI of an accepted ToO proposal to alert the NuSTAR SOC when the trigger conditions for their accepted ToO have been satisfied (via For more details see AO section 1.3.3.

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.

6. Scientific Justification

  • The scientific justification for a 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.
  • A list of approved NuSTAR ToO programs in the NuSTAR, joint NuSTAR/XMM and joint NuSTAR/Chandra GO programs can be found on the NuSTAR SOC page.
  • 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.

7. Phase 2 (Budget) Proposals

U.S. PI's whose Phase-1 proposals are assigned a Category A/B/C rating by the peer review panel will be invited to submit a Phase-2 (cost) proposal. Subject to acceptance of the associated Phase 2 cost submission, proposals for standard-mode observations (excluding proposals involving ToO or time-constrained observations) assigned a Category A or B rating will be eligible for funding immediately. Due to the uncertainty of their execution, the remaining accepted Phase 2 proposals will become eligible for funding only after the proposed observations have been carried out. 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.

The Phase 2 budget proposal deadline is extended to July 14th, 2017.

US PIs of proposals with TC, ToO, or Category C observations are invited to submit a budget proposal by the July 14th, 2017 deadline. However, the PIs of these programs will not receive funding until a target from their program is observed. Note that limited funding for the support of costs such as travel expenses associated with presentation of the results at a scientific conference, page charges, etc., will be held in reserve for Category C proposals executed during Cycle 3.

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 NNH16ZDA001N-NUSTAR.

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 3" (NNH16ZDA001N-NUSTAR)
  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.
A Phase-2 cost proposal consists of:
  1. Cover page (via NSPIRES forms)
  2. The abstract (via NSPIRES forms)
  3. The budget justification (12pt minimum font with reasonable margins), not to exceed two pages, including: a) a breakdown of the work assignments for all funded investigators, b) any major purchases including workstations, c) proposed scientific travel, d) publication costs, and e) any cost sharing applied to this project
  4. Confirmation of commitment (via NSPIRES forms) from any unfunded but essential personnel and from any necessary observing facilities on which time is not granted through the NuSTAR proposal review process
  5. A listing of any current and pending support
  6. A budget prepared according to the guidelines of the PI or Co-I institution, detailing the requested itemized expenditures
  7. All required government certifications
  8. A 1-2 page CV for each PI or Co-I requesting support

If you have any questions concerning NuSTAR or the NuSTAR GO program, visit the Feedback form.