3. Phase I: Proposal & Basic AOR Submission

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3. Phase I Proposal & Basic AOR Submission

After launching USPOT, note the Proposal and Observations tabs at the bottom of the main screen which launch their independent sub-windows. Users may toggle between these two windows as needed until all necessary information is entered for submittal. The user should then validate their proposal using the Validate button (check mark icon). If the validation is successful, the user would then select the Submit Proposal button (paper plane icon). Note that to submit a proposal, one needs to have a DCS account, which can be created here. Upon successful submission, a successful message appears in a popup window, and a confirmation email is sent to the address provided in the proposal. To check if the submission was received, one can also log into DCS and go to the 'My Proposals' link, which shows all Approved/Pending/Declined proposals status for the logged in User (PI or Co-I). If you see your submitted proposal in “My Proposal” page, then the proposals has been received.

Resubmissions and duplications

Proposals that have been accepted to previous Calls for Proposals can be resubmitted using USPOT to the currently open Call, and labeled as a resubmission of the original proposal. Go to the File Tab and click on 'Import Program for Re-submission', then enter the program ID in the pop-up text field. The previously submitted AORS and PDF files will be uploaded, and USPOT will automatically recalculate overheads and durations. Very limited edits are allowed, and the new proposal will get a new proposal ID and be identified as a resubmission. Please check compliance of the .pdf files with the compliance rules for the currently open Call (for example, Dual Anonymous Review).

Any past accepted proposal can be uploaded to USPOT from DCS , edited, and submitted as a new proposal which is not considered a resubmission. Go to the File Tab and click on 'Download Program from DCS'. Then put your DCS credentials in the pop-up Login tab, and enter the program ID in pop-up Program tab. The previously submitted AORS and PDF files will be uploaded, and USPOT will automatically recalculate overheads and durations. You can now edit the program as desired (targets, map sizes, integration times, filters, ...). Please check compliance of the .pdf files with the compliance rules for the currently open Call (for example, Dual Anonymous Review). Then go to File-> Save as a new project.

Any past proposal (accepted or not) can be uploaded to USPOT from a local file, edited, and submitted as a new proposal which is not considered a resubmission. Go to the File Tab and click on ''Read program from a file''. Then browse to your desired aor file. The AORS and PDF files will be uploaded, and USPOT will automatically recalculate overheads and durations. You can now edit the program as desired (targets, map sizes, integration times, filters, ...). Please check compliance of the .pdf files with the compliance rules for the currently open Call (for example, Dual Anonymous Review). Then go to File-> Save as a new project.

Summary tables containing the reserved observations for each instrument are included as appendices in the Call for Proposals. Generally, these may not be proposed for in the upcoming observing cycle. Duplications of existing observations, or of observations approved for the currently ongoing observing cycle but not yet executed, need to be justified explicitly. Proposers should search the SOFIA Science Archive at IRSA for completed observations and the AOR Search Page in DCS (DCS account needed) for approved observations in the currently ongoing observing cycle to check for potential duplications.

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3.1 Creating Proposals

The Proposal window is accessed via the Proposal tab at the bottom of the main screen. Within the Proposal window are two tabs which require data entry: Proposal Info and Investigators.

  • The Proposal Info tab contains several internal tabs where further information should be entered if applicable: Proposal Abstract, Related Proposals, Status of Observations, and Special Instructions. The Related Proposals tab should be used to list any active or pending proposals at SOFIA or other facilities that are directly related to the science objectives of the current SOFIA proposal. In the Status of Observations tab, include a brief description of the status of any accepted SOFIA proposals or SOFIA observations within the last two years that contain either the same PI as the current PI and/or relevant proposals where the current PI is a CO-I if directly relevant to the proposed science.
  • The Investigators tab contains an Investigators blue folder, where the information for the PI and CO-Is must be completed (the blank PI form is populated within the Investigators blue folder by default; CO-Is may be added by selecting Add CO-I and completing the required fields). Note that USPOT does not offer the feature to reorder CO-I entries, so ensure that they are initially added in the desired order of appearance.

All entries required for an initial proposal submittal are denoted with a red asterisk. Attempts to submit proposals without this information will result in an error message listing the empty fields. One exception is the DCS User Account Email field, which is only required for the PI and designated CO-Is, and will not generate an error message if not completed for general (i.e., non-designated) CO-Is.

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3.1.1 PDF Requirements

PDF requirements depend on the cycle the proposal is for and type of proposal submitted (i.e., regular proposals or SOFIA Legacy Program (SLP) proposals). Review the applicable Call for Proposals for your proposal to obtain the specific PDF requirements; make sure you are using the correct document for your proposal. Note that starting in Cycle 9, to ensure the integrity of the double blind review process, two PDF files are required per submission, one of them being the biography of the PI and coIs.

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3.2 Creating AORs

The Astronomical Observation Requests (AORs) window is accessed via the Observations button at the bottom of the main window. To create a new AOR, use the menu option Observation to select the desired AOT or select the Create AOR icon
AOR document with plus sign icon
in the toolbar to launch a window displaying all available AOTs and choose one. USPOT will create an AOR populated with default values defined in the AOT; many of these values may be left as the default until Phase II: refer to the instrument specific pages in this document for a list of the required data for Phase I for individual instruments.

After selecting an AOT, a main AOR window will launch. Specify the target by selecting New Target at the top of the main AOR window, which will launch the Target window. The Target window contains two tabs, Fixed Single and Moving Single, the latter of which contains tabs labeled Standard Ephemeris and User Defined Ephemeris (note that all fields in the User Defined Ephemeris box must be filled. use 0.0 is a value in unknown). Moving single must be used for non-sidereal sources (typically Solar System Objects). For all other sources, select Fixed Single. At the top of the Target window, enter the Target Name in the field and select Resolve the Name to search SIMBAD or NED for the target's known parameters.

Select Ok in the bottom right to add the AOR to the Observations window. Add more AORs if desired by the same method.

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3.2.1 Editing AORs

Only one AOR can be edited at a time. To work on a different AOR, any currently opened AOR must first be closed. Double click on an AOR to bring up an AOR editor window to edit the filters, nod type, exposure time, and any other available fields (i.e., that are not grayed out). After editing, select the OK button for the changes to take effect.

To copy an AOR, select an AOR from the list and duplicate it using the Copy AOR icon
AOR document icon
. A large number of new AORs can be created by selecting the AOR Replication Tool... function in the Tools drop-down menu. The newly created AORs will be assigned unique IDs when this set is saved and uploaded to the DCS server.

Use the Target List icon to add, modify, or delete a target (also accessible via the main menu option Targets then Target List from the drop-down menu).

USPOT automatically adds Guide Stars to each AOR whenever a new target is created or an existing target is modified. Occasionally USPOT cannot find an adequate Guide Star. This might present a problem for certain types of observations, such as slit spectroscopy. GO’s should contact the SMO to discuss whether the observations will be feasible. Otherwise guide stars will be selected in Phase II.

The Dither Offset frame in the AOR's editing window is activated by changing the Dither Patt... frame selection from None (the default) to any other option (that is, 3 point, 5 point, 9 point, or custom). A list of offset positions will be automatically generated according to a specified pattern but all of them can be edited by double clicking except for the first point in the pattern, which remains at 0.0, 0.0. Note that in the FORCAST C2NC2 Chop/Nod style, the off position does not dither. For FIFI-LS, customized map positions can be loaded in some modes. An example map position definition file is included in the downloaded installer.

An AOR can be deleted by selecting it in the summary table then clicking the Delete icon in the toolbar or by using the menu option Edit then Delete all AORs from the drop-down menu. The latter command will clear the AOR summary table. Selecting the Undo icon in the toolbar will restore deleted AORs as long as they are not deleted by the Delete all AORs command.

To work on a set of AORs from a different .aor file saved on a local disk or downloaded from the DCS database, the current AOR summary table must first be cleared by selecting Edit then Delete All AORs from the drop-down menu, then load the new set of AORs into USPOT by selecting File then either the Open or Download AORs from DCS option. Only AORs that have a status of New or Problem can be modified. AORs that are Done, Pending, or Approved cannot be modified or deleted: USPOT will allow these to be opened in the detailed AOR dialog so that values may be altered and visualized—however, USPOT will not allow any modifications to be uploaded to the DCS database and will discard any changes when the editing window is closed. Note that an AOR that is not editable may be duplicated, and this duplicated AOR will be fully editable.

Return to Table of Contents Edit Proposal after Submission

Proposals that have been submitted to the currently open Call for Proposal can be edited and resubmitted using USPOT at any time up to the proposal deadline.  When resubmitted, the proposal will keep the same ID number. Note, however, that a resubmitted proposal replaces all previously submitted versions, and therefore only the most recent version will be saved by the SMO Director. The first time a proposal is saved, a dialogue window will appear with a prompt to choose a name and desired location for a local copy of the proposal as an .aor file. Submitting a proposal will automatically save a local copy to the last accessed folder. After a proposal has been submitted, the title of the Proposal Window should always read "Proposal xx_xxxx (Pending)". Once the proposal has been submitted, then it can be either downloaded from DCS server (recommended) or uploaded from a local file to make edits, and the Proposal Window should still read "Proposal xx_xxxx (Pending)"—if it does not, the result will be the user submitting multiple proposals.

To minimize errors resulting from file duplications, the following procedure is suggested:

Step 1: Complete the proposal and AORs, based on the instrument-specific fields required for Phase I.
Notice at this time the Proposal window simply reads as "Proposal".

Step 2: Save a local copy of the proposal.
The purpose of this step is to set the last accessed folder to one of your choosing. Notice that the Proposal window now reads "Proposal (New)" and there is no ID assigned at this time.

Step 3: Submit the proposal.
This will save a copy of the submitted proposal to the location and name chosen in Step 2, in addition to a xx_xxxx.pdf file. Notice that the Proposal Window now includes a proposal ID, reading "Proposal xx_xxxx (Pending)".

From this point on, the Proposal Window should always read "Proposal xx_xxxx (Pending)".

When you are ready to edit the submitted proposal:

Step 4: Go to the File Tab and click on 'Download Program from DCS'. Then put your DCS credentials in the pop-up Login tab, and enter the program ID in pop-up Program tab.
This will also save a local copy with the file name xx_xxxx_Downloaded_Proposal.aor, in addition to a xx_xxxx_propDoc.pdf file. As the downloaded version of the proposal is edited and manually saved, it will overwrite the existing xx_xxxx.aor file, and the xx_xxxx_Downloaded_Proposal.aor file can be kept as a backup in case it becomes necessary to revert to the previous version at a later time. If the .aor file is uploaded from a local file instead of downloaded from the DCS server, a xx_xxxx_backup.aor file will be produced instead of the xx_xxxx_Downloaded_Proposal.aor file.

Step 5: Edit the project as needed.

Step 6: Resubmit the proposal.
This will overwrite any existing xx_xxxx.aor and xx_xxxx.pdf files.

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3.2.2 Tools

Estimations of exposure times for SOFIA instruments can be made using the SOFIA Instrument Time Estimator (SITE), a web-based tool that provides total integration time or S/N for a given instrument, filter(s), source type (point, extended, emission line) and water vapor overburden. Algorithms and assumptions used are given in the help link on the SITE webpage.

The atmospheric transmission as a function of wavelength may be obtained using the on-line tool ATRAN developed and kindly provided to the SOFIA program by Steve Lord. The use of ATRAN is necessary for planning SOFIA high-resolution spectroscopic observations.

The target visibility for SOFIA can be determined using the Visibility Tool (VT), which is now available both within USPOT and as a standalone tool as a Java Applet or for download. Note that the use of VT is not a requirement, since detailed flight planning is done by the SMO staff.

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3.3 Instrument-Specific AOTs and Required Fields

The following is a list of all currently available AOTs listed under the Observation drop-down menu:

  • FORCAST Imaging
  • FORCAST Grism
  • FORCAST Acquisition
  • GREAT Single Point
  • GREAT Raster Mapping
  • GREAT OTF Mapping
  • GREAT OTF Array Mapping
  • GREAT OTF Honeycomb Mapping
  • EXES Medium
  • EXES Low
  • FIFI-LS OTF Mapping
  • HAWC PLUS Total Intensity
  • HAWC PLUS Polarization

Specific requirements for required USPOT fields are listed under each respective instrument's chapter within this manual and are typically highlighted in USPOT with a red asterisk and bold black font. The full details on instrument capabilities are available within the Observer's Handbook, which is cycle-specific, so be sure you are using the correct version of the handbook.

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3.4 General Instructions for Common Phase I Fields

Table 3-1 provides general descriptions for some commonly required Phase I fields.

Table 3-1: Common Phase I Fields
Field Location Field Description
Main AOR Window Unique AOR Label  Important for communication, so please make it descriptive.
Specify Target Select New Target and fill in the required information.
Observation Order Used for prioritizing observations per target. In AORs for different targets, the number can be identical and the order is dictated by the observing schedule. However, for AORs with the same target, an order needs to be established. If identical numbers are used for Observation Order on the same target, USPOT will generate an error. This information helps the instrument scientist to prepare the observations for execution by defining the Observation Order.
Exposure Time Total duration of the scan.
AOR Repeats Number of times to repeat the full dither sequence. Increase this number to increase the total exposure time.
Observing Condition & Acquisition/Tracking Window Target Priority The Target Priority field refers to the relative priority of a specific science target with respect to other science targets within the observing program. This is used by the flight planners to determine which observations to schedule if for some reason not all of the targets within the program can be observed. A target can be set as either Low, Medium, or High priority. If all of the targets within a proposal are of equal interest (as for, say, a survey of many dozens of targets), then they should all be set to Medium (the default). Setting all of the targets to High priority will not ensure that they all are observed. If High priority is used for some targets, other targets must be set to Medium and/or Low priority as well.

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3.5 Advanced User Instructions

As users submit their AOR required specifications for both Phase I and Phase II, advanced users (in other words, users who have previous experience with submitting AORs with SOFIA) can proceed to enter their technical details for Phase II in USPOT during Phase I. Instructions for Phase II can be found in Chapter 4 and its internal instrument-specific sections.

3.5.1 Visualizing Guide Stars

Four categories of guide stars are utilized by telescope operators (TOs): Wide Field Imager (WFI), Fine Field Imager (FFI), Focal Plane Imager - TO (FPI-TO), and Focal Plane Imager - Science (FPI-SCI). WFI has the widest field of view (FOV), followed by FFI and both FPI FOVs. WFI and FFI are therefore used by TOs to find the brightest guide stars with which to locate the observational object of interest, after which the FPI guide stars are used to track the object. FPI-TO and FPI-SCI have maximum brightness detecting capabilities of V = 14 and V = 16, respectively. USPOT can plot up to five of the brightest guide stars for each of the four categories. Overlaps occur when not enough guide stars are available with brightness characteristics unique to each category.

To view guide stars, first create an AOR and define the target. From the Images drop-down menu, select the desired background image (WISE Image..., for example). A pop-up window will allow the user to accept or adjust the default values, then select Ok to generate the image. (Note: to view WFI and FFI guide stars and the FFI FOV, the Size field may need to be increased in the pop-up window. USPOT will allow the Size parameter to vary between 0.010 and 1.500 degrees; other values will generate an error.)

Once the image has been produced, select Options followed by Visualizations: Show Guide Stars. Select the Draw current AOR on footprints images icon
AOR document with triangle icon
and choose the desired AORs to overlay. (Note: if the current AOR was drawn on the image prior to selecting Visualizations: Show Guide Stars, the user will need to enable the guide stars, then overlay the AORs again by simply reselecting the Draw current AOR on footprints images icon
AOR document with triangle icon
.) The column on the right side of the window contains a toolbar frame for each layer displayed on the image: one for each AOR type (for example, one for FORCAST Imaging and another for GREAT Single Point, if both AORs were chosen to be mapped in the previous step) and one for the Base Image.
The icons below display for each AOR type.
blue box with check mark icon
Hide/Show Layer
X icon
Delete Layer
pointing table icon
Pointing Table
circle with cross icon
Configure the Focal Plane
Similarly, the following icons exist to alter the Base Image.
blue box with check mark icon
Hide/Show Layer
X icon
Delete Layer
percent sign icon
Show Image Opacity Control
change color table icon
Change Color Table or Stretch
view fits headers for images icon
View Fits Headers for Images
The Configure Focal Plane icon
circle with cross icon
generates a pop-up window that allows different categories of image features to be toggled on/off, whereas the Pointing Table icon
pointing table icon
launches a pop-up window that allows for individual image features to be toggled on/off and provides animation capabilities to assist with distinguishing between features on the image. Among others, these features include the WFI, FFI, FPI-TO, and FPI-SCI guide stars and their FOVs. For overlaps, multiple features may need to be toggled to add or remove the feature (e.g., the user would have to use the Configure Focal Plane icon
circle with cross icon
to deselect both FPI-TO and FPI-SCI to toggle-off a guide star with a brightness value of V = 14).

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