Blogging was quiet last week, as I was struggling to learn enough to apply for telescope time here at my new institution. It is that time of year where every American observer is preparing proposals to use telescopes, as almost every American observatory has deadlines in September and October.
A major part of proposing to use a telescope is showing that you are not going to be wasting the time. Not only does this mean you have a good project, but the project should be able to be done on the telescope you are asking for AND you need to show that you understand how to use the telescope you are asking for.
The big telescope at McDonald Observatory is the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, a joint venture between the University of Texas, Penn State (go Nittany Lions!), Stanford, and two German Universities: the Universities of Munich and Göttingen. The HET is not just another big telescope, however. It has a unique design that keeps it at a fixed angle above the ground (though it can spin around in circles). This means that there are many intricacies about planning the observing -- when are objects in the donut-shaped swath of sky the telescope can see? Does your program make the best use of this unique design?
So, I had to learn a lot very quickly about the telescope and its capabilities. I'm not positive that I learned enough, so it is quite possible I won't get time on the telescope. But, hopefully, I will get comments and even just a little data so that next time I am better prepared.