Items to check in advance

Planning your Trip to Kitt Peak

In arranging your airline reservations to Tucson and ground transportation to Kitt Peak, you should plan to arrive on the mountain in time to be at your telescope by 1:30 pm of the day that your run begins. This will give you adequate time to become familiar with the system you are scheduled to use. The mountain equipment may be complex, and it is important for you to learn the current operation of the instruments and software you will need for your project. You should also check the on-line Shuttle Schedule.

Arriving on the mountain early in the day of your observing night will also give you time to check in and get your room key, adjust to any time change, and to acclimate yourself to mountain conditions. (Reminder: Be sure to bring any prescribed or non-prescribed medications along with you.)

**Night lunch items are available in a refrigerator in the Dining Room. If you wish to have an individually prepared night lunch, you will need to fill out either the Night Lunch Web Form (Internal Access Only) or a special order form at the kitchen snack bar, by 11:00 am the same day you wish to have it prepared! Your night lunch will be marked with your name and placed in the refrigerator.

Instrument Manuals and Software Needs

If you have special requirements relating to your observing run, you may need to do one or more of the following, well before your run:

Instrument Manuals. Please consult the detailed manual(s) that you need for your observing run, on the operation of instruments and telescopes, or for software and data-reduction. Read the material carefully before you arrive.

The manuals are available electronically at the Telescope and Instrument Documentation page.

Staff Contacts: Consult with the appropriate staff astronomer, software specialist, and instrument support specialist. A list of the staff contacts for equipment used on the stellar and/or solar telescopes is located at staff contact page. These people can advise you of any recent changes in instrumentation and software.

Special Adaptations.If you have special requirements for stellar telescope/instrument adaptations, consult with Dick Joyce, or Michelle Edwards

Data Reduction.Contact your Instrument Support person for basic questions regarding downtown data reduction, the use of the IRAF, or any unusual computing demands regarding your data reduction. Contact the Kitt Peak Support Office ( to arrange access to a downtown data reduction computer and visitor account.

Coordinate Files. You may prepare a list of objects with their coordinates for use at the telescope prior to your arrival. Coordinate lists may be submitted via the Web Form mail at least two weeks before your observing run. The form will check for acceptable format, loaded into the appropriate telescope computer, and acknowledged when all is ready for your arrival.

Hazardous Materials. If you intend to bring any material with you that has safety considerations (even if you have brought it before), please contact our Risk Management Specialist, Joe Davis (, tel: 520-318-8211. You should state what the material is. This applies, but is not limited to, materials which are toxic, reactive, flammable, and/or radioactive. It must be mentioned in your Observing Time Request. Each use of hazardous materials require approval before the run is scheduled. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) must accompany the materials and copies given to the Risk Management Specialist. Special arrangements must be made for transporting hazardous materials to and from the mountain. NOIRLab will not be responsible for the disposal of your unused or contaminated materials.

Getting your Equipment to Kitt Peak

If you plan to ship equipment to Tucson, please notify your staff contact or the Kitt Peak Support Office in advance. Equipment shipped to Tucson is delivered to our Shipping & Receiving Department. Large equipment is scheduled for delivery to Kitt Peak on our cargo truck. The cargo truck goes to Kitt Peak once a week. It is important to inform your staff contact of equipment arrival so that he can reserve space on the cargo truck for your equipment, one week prior to delivery.

Your equipment should be sent to you at 950 N. Cherry Avenue with NOIRLab/KPNO as the consignee. You should schedule your equipment to arrive at the Tucson facility for loading the Tuesday before the start of your observing run.

For returning your equipment to Tucson for shipment, please notify the Mountain Receptionist to have the cargo truck pick up your equipment at the telescope. Shipping details and any special shipping paperwork should be given to your staff contact.

Small, lightweight articles can travel on the shuttle to Kitt Peak with you provided they are not hazardous materials.

Importation of Scientific Equipment

U. S. Customs procedures for temporary importation of scientific equipment will be greatly simplified if the shipment is accompanied by a document called a "carnet." The carnet, which can be obtained from the International Chamber of Commerce Office in the country of origin, certifies the temporary status of the equipment in the U. S. Individuals with equipment in this category are reminded that it is their responsibility to assure that there is proper documentation to allow ease of entry into the U. S. and to permit duty-free return of the equipment to the country of origin.

Certain items, either U.S. or foreign-made, are prohibited from entering, or reentering, the United States without U.S. State Department approval. Such restricted items include, but are not limited to, Image Intensifiers, certain Infrared Detectors, Fiber Optic Tapers, encrypted software, and other detectors and advanced electronics which have a military usage. A temporary import license must be applied for from the Department of State's Defense Trade Control Arms Licensing Division prior to the item's entry into the United States. This licensing process can take up to four months. If you have any questions about this import license, please contact Orion Wiest ( in the NOIRLab Headquarters Office. Have the shipment sent to you at 950 N. Cherry Avenue with NOIRLab/KPNO as the consignee.

Motor Vehicle Operator's ID Application

Everyone who drives a Government-owned vehicle must be carrying a current Motor Vehicle Operator's Indentification card (formerly GSA license), in addition to a valid license from their state, territory, or country. This applies, for example, if you need to make trips between Tucson and the mountain at odd hours, or if you need a mountain vehicle to drive up the 4-meter hill. Please fill out the application (if you do not have a current one.) License applications go through the Kitt Peak Support Office downtown. Once a license is issued, it is good for the same period of the individual's U.S. or international driver's license (up to a maximum of 4 years).

Reservations for Mountain Dorm

List on the Observing Run Preparation Form the names of those who will be observing, so that room reservations can be made on the mountain (and downtown if needed). If you have a room preference, or if you smoke, please make your request at this time. Smoking is not allowed in any Kitt Peak building, but we will do our best to assign you an outside room so that you can step outside to smoke.

If you change your travel plans between the time you submit your Observing Run Preparation Form and the time you come to observe, please notify us in advance so that we can change the dormitory room reservations accordingly.

Reservations for Tucson Hotel

Hotel reservations for observers are no longer made by the Kitt Peak Support Office due to a reduction in office staff. Discounted rates at some hotels will be available to observers by mentioning NOIRLab. Many of the hotels have (800) reservation numbers; however, at some hotels, you may get better rates by calling the hotel's local Tucson number.

We urge observers to plan ahead when making travel plans and hotel reservations. Tucson is a winter vacation spot and University town. Hotel rooms are especially difficult to find in the fall and winter months: The months of September-December are busy with University activities, and the January-March months are sold out to "snowbirds" visiting Tucson during the Gem & Mineral Show and the rodeo. There are plenty of hotel rooms in Tucson during the toasty summer months at considerably lower rates!

Rental Cars and Running Lights

Although we applaud and encourage automobile safety, the auto industry was not thinking about dark skies and observatories with the invention of running day lights on its cars. Rental cars with running day lights (headlights that are continuously on) may not be used on the mountaintop at night. Where possible, visitors should attempt to rent vehicles without them. If this is not possible, an NOIRLab vehicle may be checked out at the Administration Bldg. for driving to the 4-meter telescope or moving equipment around at night.


A general purpose computer mail account has been set up to answer any questions you have about visiting Kitt Peak or Tucson, and don't know who to ask. Any and all questions you have can be e-mailed to this address:

Questions that could be directed to this mail account are: who to contact about Kitt Peak instruments or filters, requests for instrument changes, requests for manuals, permission for change of observers other than those listed on your proposal, requests for open observing time, or any other general questions. An e-mail response will be sent back to you.

Updated on July 7, 2022, 8:48 am