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RXTE Cycle 11

Appendix D

Filling Out RXTE Proposal Forms in RPS

NOTE: These instructions are for filling out the RXTE-specific cover pages and target forms via the Remote Proposal System (RPS). Cycle 11 proposals also require an electronic submission of forms through the NSPIRES system. If you have questions or problems with submitting NOIs or your HQ cover pages, please consult the NSPIRES Help Page , or submit your technical support question to nspires-help@nasaprs.com..

D.1 Introduction and Instructions for Individual Forms

RXTE proposals must contain four forms: the Cover Page, the General Form, the Target Summary, and a Target Form for each target proposed. Optional forms include one or more Constraints Forms. This document is meant to provide guidance in filling out those entries on the various forms that are not self-explanatory. Additional information may be found in the RXTE Technical Description, available from the RXTE GOF by request or through the RXTE GOF homepage at the addresses given in the Solicitation Announcement.

Electronic submission of the Cover Page, General Form, Target Summary, Target Forms, and optional Constraints Forms is also required. Individuals not having access to the Internet should contact Dr. Padi Boyd at least two weeks prior to the proposal due date at the address given in the Solicitation Announcement.

The RXTE GOF provides the capability to submit forms electronically and, at the same time, to generate hard copy output, by the use of the Remote Proposal Submission (RPS) software. This software provides a "user friendly" means of entering, checking, electronically mailing, and printing of the proposal forms, and can be accessed via the WWW or by automated E-mail interaction. A description of the use of the software is available via the GOF homepage at http://rxte.gsfc.nasa.gov/, and from the anonymous FTP account on rxte.gsfc.nasa.gov

Network glitches may (very occasionally) affect the integrity of RPS files. The proposal author is strongly urged to verify the contents of the electronic RPS files prior to submitting proposals by printing out the forms and reading them carefully.

D.2 Cover Page

Most items on this form are self-explanatory, but there are a few items which are commonly filled out incorrectly. Please refer to the following sections for hints on the proper completion of the forms.

D.2.1 Principal Investigator

Title is not meant to refer to your job description, Use Dr., Prof., Mr., Ms., or whatever is appropriate.

D.2.2 Preferred Data Distribution Medium

Data is now distributed to PI's electronically, thus any value input here will be disregarded.

D.2.3 Subject Category

Please enter the one entry that best describes the observation. The choice will not affect how the proposal is judged. The proposals are assigned to a review panel on the basis of whether the proposal is a galactic or an extragalactic proposal. The subject categories are chosen so the number of proposals received in a given category can be distributed evenly among panel members who are familiar with the targets in that category. The user should make a reasonable category choice for the proposal.

The categories are:

  • Stars
  • Cataclysmic Variables
  • Pulsars
  • Black Hole Candidates
  • Low Mass X-ray Binaries
  • High Mass X-ray Binaries
  • Galactic Diffuse Radiation and Supernova Remnants
  • Active Galactic Nuclei
  • Galaxies, Clusters, and Extragalactic Large-Scale Structure
  • Other

    D.2.4 Proposal Title

    Please keep the title succinct; there is a 120-character limit.

    D.2.5 Number of Targets

    RPS fills this entry automatically. Raster targets count as a single target.

    D.2.6 Targets of Opportunity

    The box should be checked if the proposal requests Target of Opportunity (TOO) status. If the proposal is selected, time will be awarded but will remain unscheduled until the opportunity occurs. Note that it will be the proposer's responsibility to notify the SOC that the opportunity has occurred if the ASM is not used as the trigger. Note also that a proposal must not contain a mix of TOO targets and non-TOO targets.

    D.2.7 Abstract

    The abstract must not exceed 800 characters and should be understandable to someone familiar with the field but not necessarily an expert. The abstracts of approved proposals will be made available via Argus.

    D.3 General Form

    D.3.1 Co-Investigator(s)

    The first name on the list should be that Co-Investigator (Co-I) who can serve as an alternate contact if the PI is unavailable. Communication between the planning and operations teams and the PI or her/his designated contact may be necessary at any time prior to an observation. It is useful to list other Co-I's in decreasing order of participation in the proposed project. For instance, list first a graduate student or postdoctoral associate who is expected to perform the analysis (and who may have written the proposal) but who, for administrative reasons, was not allowed to be the PI.

    D.3.2 Co-I Contact

    If designation of a contact in addition to the PI is desired, enter "Y" and provide a network address and phone number. Such a contact's name should be that of the first listed Co-I. Naming such a contact is optional, but might be useful if a decision about observing modes must be made rapidly and the PI is unavailable.

    D.4 Target Form / Target Summary

    D.4.1 Target Number

    Order targets by observing priority from highest to lowest (i.e., target 1 = highest priority). The review panels will be instructed to honor the stated priority if they find it necessary to recommend reduction in the number of targets. Note that alternate targets (defined in Chapter 2 of the RXTE Technical Description) are no longer supported.

    D.4.2 Name

    The name will be printed/transmitted in upper case. Please use commonly accepted names for objects (NGC xxxx; PKS xxxx+yy; Gxxxx.x+y.y) so that overlap checks are made easier.

    D.4.3 Position

    Use J2000 coordinates. The RXTE team will not be responsible for pointing errors due to incorrect or unprecessed coordinates. If proper motion is important, specify an epoch within the Cycle 11 observing period.

    Enter coordinates carefully. Use leading zeroes when necessary. The software may not read the coordinates properly if leading zeroes are not present (e.g., enter 02 03 07 rather than 2 3 7).

    D.4.4 Total Observing Time

    The unit for this number is kiloseconds. Enter the total time spent on this target. The absolute minimum time for a pointing is 1 ksec.

    Large maneuvers between unrelated targets will incur ~500 sec of overhead, on average. To reflect the true scheduling cost of these observations on RXTE operations, the proposal review panel may factor in the estimated overhead when assessing proposals that ask for a large number of short observations.

    For scans or multiple visits, enter the summed time. Scans of extended targets at a reduced slew rate are possible; the `scan' flag on the Target Form should be set. Details of the scan should be entered in the `Remarks' box or on a separate page.

    D.4.5 Number of Observations

    The default entry is "1." It should be more than one only if any constraints exist. If a constrained observation is requested, then the appropriate entries in the Constraints Form must be filled out. If a raster observation is requested, provide details in the "Remarks" section or on a separate page.

    D.4.6 Additional Constraints

    The default entry is "N." If constraints exist, the Constraints Form must be filled out.

    D.4.7 Estimated Counting Rates: PCA and HEXTE

    Estimated counting rates in counts/sec are requested for both the PCA and HEXTE. The requested count rates are: (i) for the PCA: the mean total count rate for 3 PCUs (see C.2.2.1) across the RXTE band, the maximum and minimum count rates across the RXTE band, and mean count rates in six spectral bands, and (ii) for the HEXTE: the mean count rates in four spectral bands and maximum possible overall count rate. These counting rates will be used to review the appropriateness of the selected configurations. The counting rates in each band for a given model can be obtained by using the Portable Interactive Multi-Mission Simulator (PIMMS) or WEBSPEC. PIMMS is a software tool used for estimating count rates for a specified model. WEBSPEC is a Web-based spectral simulation tool. Both PIMMS and WEBSPEC are available via the RXTE GOF web site, on the "Proposal and Planning Tools" page.

    D.4.8 PCA/EDS Mode/Configuration

    The EDS has eight Event Analyzers (EA's). Two are used for the ASM, over which the user has no control. Two more are dedicated to the Standard Modes of the PCA and may not be altered. The remaining four EA's may be configured by the user.

    The names and descriptions of the configurations are available in the RXTE Technical Description. In addition, a software tool, RECOMMD, is available to guide the user in selecting an appropriate configuration. RECOMMD will provide suggestions for the appropriate configuration; the user must then consider whether the recommended configurations are appropriate for the proposed science. Instructions for the use of RECOMMD may be found in the RXTE Technical Description and through the RXTE GOF web site.

    The configuration must be specified as a string constant, as listed by RECOMMD or as described in the RXTE Technical Description. You do not need to enter a configuration in each box - many scientific investigations do not require all the EA's to be utilized. Enter "IDLE" in all PCA boxes for which you do not wish to specify a configuration.

    Observations of the same target using different configurations that cannot be accommodated simultaneously are considered separate observations. The proper approach to filling in the target sheet is as follows: (1) for the first configuration set, enter the exposure time desired at the specified configuration(s), and (2) treat the second observation as a completely new target as far as the exposure and configuration are concerned. The target name and coordinates will be identical with the first target.

    D.4.9 PCA Telemetry Rates

    The estimated telemetry rate in kbits/sec should be entered in the box. RECOMMD provides associated telemetry rates for all configurations listed.

    The telemetry rate is a precious resource for RXTE observations and one of its great strengths. The telemetry rate, during good science times, averaged over the entire observing period, must be approximately 40 kbits/sec, assuming an average observing efficiency of 60%. This value is exclusive of the PCA/EDS Standard Modes, HEXTE, and spacecraft telemetry values. Individual proposal telemetry rates may be above or below this value. Telemetry rates above this average value must be justified.

    D.4.10 HEXTE Configurations

    The HEXTE instrument consists of two clusters. For normal operations, the clusters are used identically. Each cluster may be programmed independently, however. HEXTE contains its own data system for selecting and formatting the data. The HEXTE modes are defined in the HEXTE instrument description chapter and the HEXTE feasibility chapter of the RXTE Technical Description. The low energy threshold acts as a lower level discriminator, so that photons below that energy are not detected within the instrument. The default value is 12 keV. The source dwell time is the source exposure time for each of the two on-source exposures, that, when combined with the off-source exposures, comprise the HEXTE rocking cycle; the default was changed from 16 seconds to 32 seconds in 1998 January. The switching angle is the angle to the off-source pointing; the default is +/-1.5 degrees. These default values are subject to change at the discretion of the HEXTE team. Proposers who request DEFAULT values will automatically receive the HEXTE team's default values in effect at the time of their observation. Finally, a burst list capability exists to record events before, during, and immediately after a burst detected by the individual cluster, the other cluster, or the EDS. Ground-commanded triggers are also possible. IDLE is not a permitted configuration for HEXTE.

    D.4.11 HEXTE Telemetry Rates

    The estimated HEXTE telemetry rate should be entered in the box at the bottom of the HEXTE section. The average HEXTE data rate will be approximately 8 kbits/s, assuming an average observing efficiency of 60%. For most sources (those whose brightness is <70% of the Crab), this limit is respected by use of the Event List Mode for which full spectral and a range of temporal resolutions are preserved for analysis. Brighter sources will require tradeoffs between spectral and temporal resolutions. The Histogram Bin (spectral) or Multiscalar Bin (timing) modes are designed to provide such capabilities and to stay within telemetry limits. Telemetry rates above the average value must be justified.

    D.4.12 Remarks

    The Remarks box should be used to explain any entry that may not be clear to the scientific and technical review panels, or to the SOC staff. If an observation is particularly complex, use the Remarks box as an indicator that an additional page has been attached (e.g., "See additional page"). An additional page for remarks is not to be interpreted as extra space for scientific justification, technical feasibility, or advertisements. The Remarks box and the extra sheet of paper are for the purpose of explaining a technically demanding observation that cannot be otherwise covered by the Constraints Form.

    D.5 Constraints Form

    D.5.1 Target Number

    The entry here will be identical to the entry placed on the Target Form. This form is generated by RPS so the target number must only be specified correctly at the initial query. PI's wishing to specify both high and low telemetry components of a particular target should propose these as two separate targets, with a comment in the Remarks section linking them.

    D.5.2 Coordinated Observation

    This category of constraint is intended for use for multibandpass observations. The entries consist of the starting and stopping times (Year, Month, Day, Hour, Minute) for the coordinated observation. The times should be absolute times (UT). If coordinated observations are planned but not yet scheduled, enter a 'U' in response to the "Coordinated observation? Y/N/U" question. Seasonal constraints may be handled in this category. Observations requesting "special handling" should set the flag. This flag emphasizes the importance of absolutely matching the coordinated observing schedule. The appropriateness of the flag will be reviewed by the peer evaluation committee. If an observing program is so designated, a change in the coordinated observing schedule will be accommodated up to 60 days prior to the start of the observation. If a target has multiple coordinated windows, such as an observation in March 2006 and another in September 2006, PI's must propose these as two targets, with a comment in the Remarks section linking them.

    D.5.3 Time-of-Day Observation

    This category exists generally for ground-based collaboration to specify a UT time to start and to end the observation. The emphasis is slightly different from the Coordinated Observation, in that the observation may stretch over several nights and be done only during the Earth's night-time hours from a given location (e.g., Kitt Peak).

    D.5.4 Monitoring Observation

    This category is intended for repeated visits to a particular target(s). The primary consideration is not when the observation is scheduled but the interval between visits. Note that the time interval must be specified as a minimum and a maximum interval, where the units are in kiloseconds, to permit the scheduling software some flexibility in producing the observing schedule. If PI's wish to do (for example) both a daily and weekly monitoring campaign, these should be specified as two targets, with a comment in the Remarks section linking them. Monitoring campaigns with more complex structures, e.g. logarithmic separations, are still to be considered as a special case and must be specified entirely in the Remarks section.

    D.5.5 Phase-Dependent Observation

    This category is intended for observing at a particular phase of a periodic phenomenon. The epoch (MJD = Modified Julian Date) and the period (in days) must be specified. In addition, the phase range which the observation will cover must be specified as the starting and stopping phases (in other words, the observation will begin near the "start" phase and continue until approximately the "stop" phase). No time outside of that interval will be scheduled. It will be the proposer's responsibility to see that the requested exposure time is an appropriate match to the length of time to be covered by the phase constraint. Two separate phase constraints are now permitted.

    D.5.6 Uninterrupted Observation

    There are two categories of observation included in the Uninterrupted Observation constraint. Proposers may select either of these categories.

    The "Minimum Constant Pointing Direction Time" is the minimum desired time that RXTE must observe the source, without slewing to another source, but allowing interruptions for occultation, SAA passage, etc.

    The "Minimum Continuous Viewing Zone Time" is the minimum desired time that RXTE must observe the source, without slewing to another source, and NOT allowing ANY interruptions for occultation, SAA passage, etc.

    Note that SAA passages occur about one per orbit for 6 consecutive orbits per day, and that the position of the source on the sky may rule out long periods of continuous viewing. The user should also note that unavoidable short interruptions may still occur for operational reasons such as data dropouts.

    D.5.7 TOO Observation

    A TOO observation may be tied to a change in the X-ray flux as detected by the ASM. The ASM is discussed in Chapter 6 of the RXTE Technical Description. The ASM count rate that is to trigger the TOO should be entered. If the TOO is to be triggered by a means other than the ASM, the "TOO Triggered by Optical/Other Observations" box must be flagged. Full details of TOO Observations are covered in Chapter 3 of the Technical Description.

    D.6 Certifications

    No certifications are required in response to this Announcement.


    The ROSES-2005 Announcement "Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences - 2005", describing the "Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer Guest Observer Program - Cycle 11

    Description of the RXTE Guest Observer Program

    Information for Proposers Regarding Proposal Submission, Evaluation, Selection, and Implementation

    Filling out RXTE Proposal Forms