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McDonald Observatory grants a modest amount of telescope time to unsolicited, competitive proposals from the national and international astronomical communities. Time donated to researchers at institutions other than UT Austin is limited to approximately 10% of the time on the 2.7m, 2.1m, and 0.8m telescopes on an annual basis and is designated as "Director's Discretionary Time." The Observatory particularly encourages proposals from our partners in the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (Penn State, Stanford, München and Göttingen). 

The institutional affiliation of the Principal Investigator on the submitted proposal defines whether a proposal is "UT Austin" or "non-UT Austin."