HST Proposals: How High Will it Go?

By Julianne Dalcanton | March 7, 2008 6:17 pm

Over at Steinn’s place, we’re all a twitter anticipating the number of Hubble Space Telescope proposals submitted this Cycle. Fancy new instruments and shiny bad-ass spectrographs coming to the telescope, so interest should be high. Based on comments, here’s proposal number versus time until deadline. I’ll add any late breaking data to the plot — post submission times (PST, preferrably, because math iz hard) in comments here or at Steinn’s, and I’ll add them as I can.


Apparently this is a nice exponential, so my prediction is that we’ll have an infinite number of proposals this round.

Update: No! Flattening off! We may not even break 1000, which is a shock! Highest number so far is 928 at 10 minutes until the deadline. Extrapolated fit uses the most recent decade in time. Any procrastinators out there have something higher?

Post-Mortem: While cracking some beers with my group at 5:05 PST, we talked with a student who had submitted a STIS proposal. Apparently the spectroscopic ETC (exposure time calculator) was all kinds of crazy, so I’m betting that cut down on the number of proposals one could just whip out for COS or STIS. The imaging ETC worked just great (or at least, it lied convincingly). I also agree with Steinn that a lot of people decided to sit this one out, since there were of course going to be 2000 proposals (the same way that the number of proposals went up after the ACS failure, since of course no one was going to be asking for time on WFPC2 and NICMOS). Apparently you’d make a killing placing short sales on HST proposal betting.

  • ts

    My ex-advisor once started modifying an HST proposal (which I wrote for the most part, spending a sleepless night before) like 15 minutes before the deadline. Needless to say it was well past the deadline when she finished adding final touch to it and submitted. I think it was about 15-30 min past deadline. The proposal was still accepted (thank goodness), though it was, of course, rejected.

    The moral of the story: Never write a proposal for your advisor, especially if you don’t even get a credit for it as a PI. Just a bitter memory as a grad student.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/julianne Julianne

    But I’m sure you built all sorts of character!

  • Pat Durrell

    That is a shock! I wonder what the oversubscription rate will be…maybe everyone just asked for 40-50 orbits each? That will be the next thing…a tally of number of orbits requested as a function of time before deadline.

  • http://mingus.as.arizona.edu/~bjw/ Ben

    It’s a good idea to submit a draft proposal early just in case the intertubenets go down. That’s probably reflected here. I expect there to be a significant number of large proposals. There will also be a chunk of the cycle that goes to COS guaranteed time.

    This might be informative for the non-astronomers reading this blog – I’m not sure how many people outside professional circles, who read articles about this or that HST discovery, realize the angst that goes into every HST proposal cycle. The oversubscription for HST time is of order 10. Astronomers don’t only spend their time staring perceptively into space. Every year, we sweat blood for weeks writing telescope time proposals, of which only 10% can succeed, even though at least half of them are in fact really good. And that’s just HST. HST has the worst oversubscription, but for other telescopes and funding sources, the competition is still fierce.

  • keep ’em comin’

    Keck proposals next week!

  • Brad Holden

    And after Keck, is Chandra

    At least Spitzer was in December. When is GALEX again?

  • Count Iblis

    Also, according to a physicsworld editorial in 1988, Supernova 1987a was followed by Papernova 1988 :)

  • http://astrodyke.blogspot.com The AstroDyke

    Don’t forget the NOAO deadline, 31 March.

    Never ends, does it?

  • Sangeeta

    Ours was 942….Oh come on, you cannot stop counting 10 minutes before the deadline!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/julianne Julianne

    If you give me a timestamp, I’ll add it on!

    I’m trying to find the historical data, but didn’t turn it up in 3 minutes of googling.

  • http://www.astr.ua.edu/keel NGC3314

    How about that? I was guessing 1200, mostly from my guess that oversubscription in time will be 11-12. Certainly trying to do my part.

    The STIS ETC was crazy? Well, that explains why one observation went from easy in an orbit to requiring a megasecond when I went back to double-check. That piece of a proposal was certainly one that didn’t get submitted. (And, Julianne – sorry about that, no UV imaging proposal for the ANGST overlapping pair. Barely got the Galaxy Zoo overlap proposals done. Of course, our IT folks picked last week to “rationalize” all the network’s IP addresses, which had the side effect of removing my workstation from email contact for two days and making all my machines incommunicado for several hours. I threatened to return with mediaeval cutlery if the local Unix support guy didn’t get it all back and soon.)

  • Caryl

    Because I obviously don’t have enough work to do over spring break, I went digging through the STScI newsletters and found most of the historical numbers.

    Cycle 1 — ??
    Cycle 2 — 483
    Cycle 3 — ??
    Cycle 4 –501
    Cycle 5 — ??
    Cycle 6 — 1025
    Cycle 7 — 1298
    Cycle 8 — 1053
    Cycle 9 — 914
    Cycle 10 — ??
    Cycle 11 — 1078
    Cycle 12 — 1046
    Cycle 13 — 949
    Cycle 14 — 727
    Cycle 15 — 733
    Cycle 16 — 821
    Cycle 17 — ~942

    Of course the next thing to go look at would be # of orbits requested.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/julianne Julianne

    Oooooh! Tasty data! Thanks Caryl!

  • http://mollishka.blogspot.com mollishka

    Just heard of a proposal ID #940 with 2 minutes remaining.

  • Ben

    STIS went into safe mode (inoperative) in August 2004 and the Cycle 14 deadline was May 2005, so maybe that accounts for why cycles 14,15,16 were lower.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/julianne Julianne

    And with the return of spectroscopy in this Cycle, the numbers went right back to the 900-1000 level. My thought was that there would be pent up demand for all the projects that didn’t get done in those cycles, and that the “missing” 200 proposals a year would show up on top of the baseline level. But, I think Steinn is right that around 1000 is the full capacity for proposal-writing that the astronomy community has.

    For non-insiders, the initial cycles were <600 because of the spherical aberation problems that were fixed with later cameras.

  • Roelof

    So, the semi-official proposal count for cycle 17 is 961 proposals. That is somewhat funny, because I am co-I on proposal 961. Not my idea to submit in the very last minute…


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