2  What Every Observer Should Know

2.1) Observing
2.1.1) Obtaining the best seeing
2.1.2) Limits on observing conditions
2.2) Weather Conditions
2.2.1) Weather radio
2.2.2) Weather Monitor
2.2.3) What to do during bad storms
2.3) Emergency Conditions
2.3.1) Telephone help
2.3.2) Emergency radio
2.3.3) Emergency generator and the UPS

2.1  Observing Conditions

2.1.1  Obtaining the best seeing!

The telescope may only be used when the observing conditions are favorable (Section 2.1.2). A checklist of the normal START-UP procedure is given in Appendix A.

The best seeing is obtained when the dome air is continuously flushed with the ambient air, and sources of heat are minimized. Make sure that the louvers and garage door are fully open and that the passageway doors are closed. You are also advised to park the vehicles by the 1.3 m building and to keep the air-conditioning or heating in the 2.4m living area at reasonable levels.

The 2.4m primary mirror is cooled (Chapter 10) to reduce the effect of "mirror" seeing. When the mirror is warmer than the ambient air, tube currents can deteriorate the seeing, adding 0.4" for every 1 degree C. Ideally, the mirror should be at the same temperature as the ambient air, but when this condition cannot be met it is best to have the mirror slightly cooler than ambient.

It is important to leave the mirror covers closed until you are ready to observe because the ambient air will be warmer than the mirror.  The active cooling is also only active when the mirror cover is closed.

2.1.2  Limits on Observing Conditions.

You should stop observing whenever any ONE of the following conditions are met:

The relative humidity is measured inside the dome, near the eastern declination bearing. It is displayed on the air-conditioning control computer located in the computer room. Use this to determine if conditions are suitable to open the mirror covers.

The optics are aluminized every two or so years. Please do not spoil the performance of the telescope for everyone by obtaining data under conditions that might risk damage to the mirror surfaces.

A checklist of the normal SHUTDOWN procedure is given in Appendix B.

2.2  Weather Conditions

2.2.1  Weather radio

The National Weather Service forecast for the greater Tucson area can be obtained on the "weather radio", which is kept on the window sill in the lounge. This is updated approximately every 2 hours. A similar forecast from Phoenix is available by switching the frequency knob located under the unit.

A number of links for monitoring the weather on and around Kitt Peak can be found here.

2.2.2  MDM Weather Monitor

The instantaneous weather conditions on the south-west ridge are read by the MDM weather station which is located outside the 2.4m dome.  The monitor is located just outside the computer room on the west wall. The following parameters are available:

Outside temperature
Wind speed & direction
Barometric pressure
Outside relative humidity
Dew point
High and low temps and humidity
Sunrise and sunset
Information can also be found online.

2.2.3  What to do during bad storms

Kitt Peak is very susceptible to bad lightning storms, especially between July and September, and this has caused considerable damage to equipment in the past. If a lightning storm occurs close enough that it appears to be a possible threat:

The lightning shutdown procedure is also posted prominently in the control room. During lightning season make sure that you understand how to carry out the procedure in advance of the occasion for implementing it.

Heavy snow can fall during the winter months. Please make sure that the dome louvers are fully closed. Carefully check the dome for ice before opening the shutters. When lots of ice builds up on the power lines they often break (!) and power at the observatory switches over to an emergency generator.

2.3  Emergency Conditions

2.3.1  Telephone help

To summon help in case of a fire or medical emergency dial 8777, which rings a variety of numbers at Kitt Peak sequentially. If no one answers after a while, dial 8721, which patches to the hand-held radios that are carried by most of the mountain staff. Remember to dial # to disconnect from the radios before hanging up.

2.3.2  Emergency Radio

A Vertex portable radio is available in either telescope control room to call Kitt Peak in case of an emergency. A list of channels can be found on the cork board.  Kitt Peak is on Frequencies 1-4; Channel 5 is the National Weather Service; Frequencies 11-15 are MDM channels.  Channels 1 and 11 are the standard use channels respectively.  Full instructions are given on the control room wall, near the radio. Please read them in advance if you are not familiar with the radio.

2.3.3  Emergency Generator and the UPS

When the commercial power fails an emergency generator automatically switches in. Please note that each dome has its own generator; the 2.4m unit is located to the north of the building, just by the roadside (photo). If commercial power is lost both generators should be running!

All the critical equipment (telescope, computers, instruments, telephones) are kept on an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS). When power is lost, the equipment on this supply (orange outlets in the control/computer room) is not affected. The emergency generator should start within  ~10 seconds.


Figure 2-1: Emergency Generator Panel


This generator provides power to the UPS and some additional circuits. The television and other circuits in the lounge are not on the generator supply.

When commercial power is restored it will automatically switch back and the generator will stop. Under normal circumstances you don't need to do anything.

If the generator fails to star,t the UPS will run for approximately 45 minutes on its batteries. You should check that the generator is running and that the generator power has switched over. To check this, see if the fluorescent lights in the 2.4 m workshop area are working. If not, the UPS is being powered by its batteries and you need to take action.

Figure 2-1 shows the front panel of the generator. Check that the toggle switch is set to REMOTE. If it is not then set it to RUN. The generator should now start; wait 15 seconds and then put the switch back to REMOTE.

If the generator stalls:

  1. put the toggle switch to STOP
  2. put the toggle switch to RUN
  3. wait 30 seconds
  4. put the toggle switch to REMOTE

If the unit stalls again the engine may be overloaded:

  1. Turn off unwanted lights (especially in dome), etc.
  2. Repeat the main procedure.
  3. If it continues to stall, call for assistance.

If the generator is running but the fluorescent lights in the 2.4 m workshop area are still out, then the generator power failed to transfer. The transfer switch is located in the utility room off the lounge. The front display can be used to see if power is coming from the generator or not. If not, call for assistance.

Report all problems with the generator (even ones you eventually fixed yourself) in a Trouble Report.


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Updated: 2014Jan30 (Galayda/MDM)