Download the SOFIA Cycle 6 Call for Proposals Document (version 1.1, June 5, 2017)

SOFIA Observer's Handbook for Cycle 6

USPOT Manual

Attention: Older versions of the Quick Guide to SOFIA have typographical errors in the FORCAST section. Please download the most recent version (June 2018).

Attention HAWC+ Users: the sensitivity values for HAWC+ have been updated in SITE v3.4.2. Please make sure you use the latest version of SITE (released June 2, 2017) for estimating exposure times for your Cycle 6 proposals.


For Cycle 6, the following instruments are offered: EXES, FIFI-LS, FORCAST, FPI+, GREAT and HAWC+. The instrument modes available for Cycle 6 observations, including those offered as shared risk, are listed in the Call for Proposals and described in detail in the Observer's Handbook for Cycle 6. The instrument properties are summarized on the instrument pages and on the Quick Guide to SOFIA.

FLITECAM and HIPO are not offered in this Call, neither as a stand-alone instruments, nor in combination.  However, SOFIA will be executing Science Flight Series OC5-L with the FLITECAM/HIPO combination in early October 2017, and the program is inviting proposals for Director's Discretionary Time (DDT) observations with either instrument (or both) during this period.  The series nominally consists of three science flights (October 4, 5 and 6), one of which is focused on an occultation observation of Triton taking place over the Atlantic ocean.  The last of these will be a ferry flight from Daytona Beach back to SOFIA's regular base in Palmdale.  SOFIA flights are limited to 10 hours duration, and target visibility for the above period may be estimated by using the SOFIA Visibility Tool.  For full consideration, DDT proposals for series OC5-L should be submitted to the SOFIA Mission Operations Director by July 14, 2017. The regular instructions for DDT proposals should be followed.

Reserved Observations Catalogs (ROCs)

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 Cycle 6. Information about Reserved Observations, and the policies governing their definition are described in Section 1.7.1 of the Call for Proposals document.

Duplication Checking

Duplications of existing observations, or of observations approved for Cycle 5 but not yet executed, need to be justified explicitly. Proposers should search the SOFIA Science Archive for completed observations and the AOR Search page for approved Cycle 5 observations to check for potential duplications. Any intentional duplications must be identified as such and explicitly justified in the proposal.

Complementary Sky Positions

The infrared sky is highly anisotropic, with some areas having a high density of targets. This leads to a significantly inhomogeneous distribution of requested SOFIA observing time. Due to the nature of SOFIA flight planning, there are complementary areas of the sky where scientifically well-justified targets would allow increased efficiency in the flight plans. The following sky-maps show these desirable complementary areas for each instrument based on all accepted sidereal targets from SOFIA Cycles 4 and 5. Please see section 2.2.4 (Sky availability during Cycle 6) of the Call for Proposals for further details.

Complementary Sky Positions for Cycle 6

Proposal Preparation and Submission -- USPOT

New for Cycle 6: All proposals are to be prepared and submitted using the Unified SOFIA Proposal and Observation Tool (USPOT), which is based on SOFIA Spot (used for Phase II submission in earlier cycles), which in turn is based on Spitzer Spot. USPOT is part of the SOFIA Data Cycle System (DCS).

Download USPOT (v3_4_2 and higher required for Cycle 6 proposals)

USPOT Manual

USPOT can be downloaded without registering for a DCS account, and without being logged in to DCS. However, a DCS user account is necessary for submitting a SOFIA Phase I proposal. We recommend that new users register with DCS well before the proposal submission deadline.

The proposal formatting (Scientific Justification, Feasibility, etc.) is up to the proposer, constrained by the formatting requirements and page limits given in sections 2.2. and 2.2.2. of the Call for Proposals, respectively. A simple MSWord template file can be downloaded here.

Exposure Time Estimation

EXES - exposure times should be obtained from the on-line calculator for EXES observations, maintained by the Instrument PI, Matthew Richter (UC Davis).

FIFI-LS on-line time estimator.

FLITECAM imaging - on-line calculator, SITE.

FLITECAM grism observation calculator.

FORCAST imaging - on-line calculator, SITE.

FORCAST grism observation calculator.

FPI+ - on-line calculator, SITE.

GREAT - exposure times should be calculated using the GREAT on-line time estimator. The calculations are based on the “Guide to observation planning with GREAT”, which also contains detailed information about the instrument.

HAWC+ - on-line calculator, SITE.

Atmospheric Transmission

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

Target Visibility Tool

The target visibility for SOFIA can be determined using the Visibility Tool (VT), which is now available both 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.

Other Supporting Resources

SOFIA Publications

SOFIA Observers' Workshop presentations

Refereed publications using SOFIA data, and about the Observatory and instruments are available on the publications page.

Ringberg Workshop

The "Ringberg Workshop on Spectroscopy with the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA)" was held on March 15-18, 2015. Some presentations from the meeting are available here. Abstracts of all the presentations, and other details may be found on the meeting website.

Cycle 6 Information

Cycle 6: Phase II Information

Contact the SOFIA help-desk