Operating the Telescopes

Checkout Night

Half-nights are usually designated in the telescope schedule after each instrument is installed so that the Instrument Support staff can confirm the correct operation of telescopes, instruments, and detectors. If no problems are found in this first-night check, the telescope is turned over to the astronomer to begin observations. If, however, maintenance is found to be necessary, work may be allowed until midnight when the telescope will be turned over to the observers.

Telescope Assistance

The 4-meter and the WIYN telescopes are run by professional operators; the 2.1m telescope is operated by the observer. A brief familiarization session will be scheduled to help get you started. Electronic Maintenance (EM) personnel are on duty daily if you need technical assistance during the day. To reach a EM person by phone, you can use the "phone patch" to the radio system by dialing 8721. After hearing the tones, say "Electronic maintenance please call Ext. XXX." Then press the # key to disconnect. The 0.9-meter Telescope is equipped with portable radios. If you have an equipment failure and are not able to reach the duty EM, call the telescope operator at the the 4-meter (620) or the WIYN (8670).

Operating Instructions and Logs

Operating manuals are available at each telescope. You are required to fill out the Operating Log each night and/or day, except at the 4-meter and WIYN telescopes (where the logs are filled out by the telescope operator). Report all troubles to the Observing Assistant when they occur. After 12:30 am, please report non-urgent operating failures using the computerized "Service" program.

At the end of your run, please fill out an Observing Run Evaluation Report on-line or print out a form from the web. Turn it in to the Mountain Receptionist, or to the Kitt Peak Support Office downtown.


When you are on the mountain, an Observing Assistant or an Instrument Support staff member will give you a safety tour of your telescope, pointing out precautions for your own personal protection. At the same time, emergency procedures will be reviewed and instructions given on use of the phone system. We encourage and appreciate your making us aware of any safety problems so that we can do our best to correct them.

Shutdowns and Marginal Operating Conditions

You may be required to close down your telescope under unfavorable circumstances as determined by Kitt Peak personnel

Sign-Out of Equipment

Warm clothing, filters, calculators, dome communication radios, and flashlights can be signed out from the Observing Assistant. We recommend that observers bring their own flashlights.

Special Filters

If your program requires special filters or a special system of filters, contact either Daryl Willmarth (dwillmarth_at_noao.edu) or your Staff Contact well in advance of your run. They will arrange for you to sign out the filters from our Observing Assistant when you arrive on the mountain. Return all filters to the Instrument Support Office in the Administration Building at the end of your observing run.

AURA Liability Disclaimer Regarding Users' Property

It is possible that loss of or damage to personal property of non-AURA employees may occur while the individual is using AURA's facilities. Such personal property may include equipment, personal papers or records, data stored on photographic plates, on a computer medium, or on other magnetic media. It is administratively and financially impractical for AURA to assure against such losses of non-AURA employees.

Accordingly, AURA disclaims any responsibility for loss or damage to equipment, supplies, data, records, personal papers, or other personal property of any kind that are owned or brought into or generated and maintained at an AURA site by a user, or any employer of a user, of AURA's facilities. Permission to use AURA's facilities may be granted only upon the user's acknowledgement of this disclaimer and agreement to hold AURA harmless from any liability for such loss or damage.

I'itoi, the man in the maze

The story of I'itoi is also the story of every human being, traveling through life as through a maze, taking many turns while growing stronger and wiser as death at the dark center of the maze comes closer.

Tracing the light path with your finger you will find one more turn at the end, away from the center. Here we can look back on the trail and find acceptance of the last step.

Tohono O'odham


Updated on June 9, 2021, 5:47 am