TESS Guest Investigator Program Frequently Asked Questions

Image Credit: NASA

How many TESS 2-minute target slots will be available to TESS Guest Investigators?

At least 20,000 targets will be available to the GI program during the course of the 2-year baseline mission. This number may be higher depending on the demand.

Will funds also be available?

Yes. TESS Guest Investigators at US Institutions may apply for funding to support their TESS Investigations. There are two levels of funding: small programs and large programs. We anticipate that a small program award will be $50,000 and a typical large program award will be around $200,000.

What if I have an interesting and timely TESS target that needs to be observed quickly, once TESS is launched?

Target of opportunity proposals are solicited for rapidly evolving phenomena whose occurrence is not predictable at the time of the TESS proposal deadline. These proposals would commence after the spacecraft upload following the trigger event, which could be as long as 2 months after the event. The impact to science of such a potential delay must be addressed in proposals requesting ToO observations. These proposals are submitted during the regular cycle and are eligible for funding.

Additionally, a fraction of the GI targets will be reserved for rapid turn-around, Director's Discretionary Time (DDT). If your target can't wait for the next GI proposal cycle, then DDT is the route for you.

Will there be any proprietary time period for GI targets?

No. All GI data will become immediately public when it arrives in the TESS archive at STScI/MAST.

Are there any restrictions on the types of targets that can be proposed through the TESS GI Program?

Proposals to detect planet transits within the 2-minute cadence data of the one hundred thousand (100,000) top-prioritized, southern hemisphere CTL (version 5.0) targets are not solicited, and will be considered non-compliant. No restrictions are imposed on science using the full frame image data. Proposals for exoplanet detection and characterization using full frame image data are encouraged.

But the final target lists are not yet set

The CTL is not finalized (in fact is will likely evolve even after launch). However, to have target lists ready for launch we needed to move forward with language in the call for proposals. The language there is a compromise designed keep the scope of the core science limited thereby enabling GI proposals that are related to transiting exoplanets without duplicating funded work of the science team.

The CTL up at MAST is v5. This is the version that will be used when evaluating GI Cycle 1 proposals. This version has a column called priority which is what we will use to evaluate what is in the top 100,000 targets in the southern ecliptic hemisphere. The CTL v5 at MAST is the version against which proposals will be assessed.

Where can I find the list of these 100,000 targets?

Search the CTL at MAST for targets below ecliptic latitude of -6.0 and sort by priority. To aid this we have made a file available that contains the list of the top 100,000 priority targets in the southern ecliptic hemisphere.

What if I can do my science with TESS full frame images, and don't need to propose for targets?

These proposals will request funding only, and will be allowed under the TESS GI Program.

I have heard that the CTL contains "special lists" of targets. What does that mean, and can my GI proposal include targets that are in those lists?

All targets in the CTL are included in the full TIC, from which the CTL is drawn. The CTL includes additional observed or calculated stellar properties relevant for transit detection, such as stellar radius. The methods employed to determine these stellar properties are designed for typical main sequence and subgiant stars of type F to M, and might not work reliably for certain other kinds of stars (e.g., white dwarfs). Therefore, the Science Office has assembled "specially curated lists" of specific stars of interest for planet detection, in which the stellar parameters were determined using alternate methods than those used for the bulk of the CTL. More information is available in the TIC paper. There are no additional restrictions placed on these targets above beyond what is described in the proposal call.

How will my TESS GI targets be processed?

TESS data processing takes place at the Science Processing Operation Center (SPOC), designed and operated at NASA Ames Research Center. The SPOC is developing the image processing and transit photometry software, leveraging the Kepler Mission's Science Operations Center (SOC) pipeline software. More information on the Kepler software can be found here.

What software tools will be available?

Shortly before the call for proposals is released, the GI Program Office will make software available for planning observations. Analysis software will be developed and made available as needs are foreseen and/or arise.

Where can I send my suggestion for an idea I'd like to see incorporated into the TESS GI Program, or a software tool I'd like to suggest be developed?

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