Welcome to MDM Observatory. This guide is intended to give you a basic overview of the
facility and the procedures here.
Fees for use of MDM telescopes and vehicles break down as follows:
Facility fee of $40 per night per telescope.
Vehicle fee of $50 per round trip use of an MDM car from Tucson, or $25.00 for one way.
The fees are typically paid via PayPal, but can also be paid by check (no credit cards or cash) to any staff member.
They will issue you a receipt for these services.
MDM vehicles are provided for official MDM business. Personal use of the cars is not permitted.
Drive carefully and do not drive when you are tired. Make sure mode of transport is filled out
on your observing form. Cars are issued on a first come, first served basis and have an associated
There are currently two MDM vehicles readily available to observers--a Hyundai Santa Fe and a
Subaru Forester. In unusual circumstances, there is also a manual-transmission Ford pickup truck
on-site that may be available for observer use. Consortium institutions have keys for the Hyundai
as well as for a lock box. Due to a limited number of issued keys for the Subaru, a lock box key is
necessary to gain access to that vehicle.
If an MDM vehicle is requested, be sure to bring out keys for both, the Hyundai and the lock box.
Maps and photos detailing the location of the downtown lot and lock box can be acquired from the
parent institution or by contacting the MDM Site Manager.
Kitt Peak Transport
The only guaranteed Kitt Peak Transport is 6:40 up & 16:00 down Monday – Friday. It does
not run on NOAO holidays or weekends. Booking any other time could leave observers stranded
at MDM or in Tucson. Please make sure that when using Kitt Peak transportation outside of the
guaranteed times that you have a back up transport plan in case it does get canceled.
The transportation only runs at the following times:
Up: 6:40, 8:30, 11:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00
Down: 8:30, 11:00, 14:00, 16:00, 18:00, 20:00, late service somewhere between 22:00-23:00.
Normally, an NOAO/NSO employee must be available to drive the shuttle vehicle, however
there is one exception to the rule. If an MDM observer has signed up for a shuttle in advance
and no NOAO/NSO employee is available to drive, then the MDM observer is authorized to
drive one of the shuttle vehicles to/from the mountain. In order for this to happen, the observer
needs to make sure that they have signed up in advance and that they have filed an "Application
for a Motor Vehicle Operator's Identification Card". If you have any plan of using the NOAO
shuttle service, it is a good idea to file this form in advance as it cannot be filed at the last minute.
For any questions about the NOAO shuttle service, contact Eric Galayda or the appropriate
NOAO staff, found below.
Bellina Cancio can be contacted by dialing 0 on the MDM phone or on an outside line at (520) 318 8603.
Karen Ray arranges the downtown transport for NOAO and can be contacted at (520) 318 8212.
Telescope & Facility Use:
Only operate the telescopes if you are confident in your ability to do so. Contact an MDM staff
member for more training on the telescope operation if you feel that you need it. You should be
familiar with the equipment on the telescope and in the computer rooms to enable you to
effectively troubleshoot problems during the night. Read the telescope and instrumentation
manuals as these may have been updated since your last visit.
Use the online trouble form for reporting troubles with the telescopes, domes and instrumentation.
When filling out the trouble forms, include as much detail as possible such as telescope HA and
DEC positions, times, sample computer file locations, telescope slewing or tracking, etc.
During nights and weekends follow up the report with a phone call to the MDM staff at home for
urgent requests. Telephone support for all types of problems is available until 10 PM. From 10
PM onwards please call for urgent matters only.
For all other faults, such as problems with the facility or rooms, let a staff
member know, detailing the problem.
Keep a close eye on the weather while the dome is open. Close down if the wind increases
above 40 MPH or the humidity rises above 85%. On marginal nights, keep checking outside
for clouds. If it is cloudy, close the dome until the clouds have passed to prevent the possibility
of rain getting on the telescope optics.
The rooms are not managed. Find an empty room in the building that you are in and write your
name on the white board next to that room number. Bedding is located in the corridor cupboard
at the 2.4m telescope and in the workshop cupboard at the 1.3m telescope. When you leave
MDM, strip the bedding and put it outside the linen cupboard. The staff check the corridor every
day and will send all used laundry out for cleaning. Leave the room clean and tidy for the next observer.
This is important as rooms do not necessarily get cleaned between observers. Rub your name off the
white board as you depart. Feel free to inform the staff of any problems with your room.
Be careful with your food during your stay at MDM. Do not leave food open as it will attract
mice and insects. Clean up plates as soon as possible. When you leave, clearly label any food
that you leave behind with dates of purchase and that it is available for other people to use.
Throw out anything that will go bad.
Kitt Peak Meals
Kitt Peak no longer uses meal cards so follow the instructions by the meal computer at the dining hall.
At the end of your stay go to Kitt Peak and pay for your meals at the reception desk.
There are forms on the reception desk that you can put your credit card information on in order to pay.
Envelopes are available so that your credit card information can be kept private.
If you forget to pay, an added charge may be billed to you.
For other matters such as Kitt Peak transportation, send a separate email.
The workshop facilities are typically not available for use by the visiting observers. If workshop use is necessary,
contact an MDM staff member.
– Be sure to clear out your room and leave it clean & tidy for the next observer.
– Wipe your name from the white board for the rooms.
– Clear off your data from the computer system at the earliest opportunity.
– Tidy the kitchen area and fridge.
– Mark any food & drink that you are leaving as community with the current date.
When working alone in the telescopes, stay in touch with the other observers. Carry the radio or
telephone with you and always use a flashlight in the dark. If you are feeling ill, it is very
important to let the other observers know and get them to monitor you. If your illness
progresses, then you should inform an MDM staff member, close the telescope down, leave the
MDM facility and go and check into accommodation in Tucson where medical facilities are
readily available - get the other observers to drive you there if needed. Do not stay on the
mountain when you are very ill.
Please take precautions to make sure that if something happens to you that someone will be
aware of problems shortly afterwards and will be able to arrange help for you.
Should you have an accident or near miss, you should send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org detailing the problem. Follow up with a call to MDM staff if
First aid kits are located in each lounge/kitchen area. If you use anything from the kit let
the staff know so that it can replaced.
A defibrillator is located in the 2.4m telescope lounge/kitchen area and should be used if a heart
problem is suspected. It will only shock the person if it is necessary.
Call for help as soon as possible in anything other than minor incidents. In an emergency, call
Kitt Peak first on 8777 where there are Emergency Medical Technicians available followed by
the emergency services if necessary on 9-911 (up to one hour response time). Your location is
the MDM Observatory, Kitt Peak, Sells, Arizona. Your telephone number is 520-318-8660 or
In the domes there are face shields, aprons and gloves that should be worn when filling the liquid nitrogen dewars.
Follow the instructions that are attached to the dewars and it should be easy. Make sure that you have the fill
tube fully inserted into the dewar and that the dewar gets a full fill--it should be venting liquid droplets
rather than gas when full. If it vents liquid droplets at the start of filling then you probably do
not have the fill tube fully inserted. If you have a large spill of liquid nitrogen, then immediately
leave the area and open the outside doors until the spill evaporates since nitrogen is heavier than air.
If you forget to fill the dewar and it has started to warm up, do not attempt to fill it. Contact an
MDM staff member for guidance.
For small localized fires, use the provided fire extinguishers and fire blankets if you feel
confident to do so. If not, evacuate the facility closing the doors behind you. Take a 2-way
radio if possible, move to a safe location and report the issue to the summit by transmitting on channel 1.
If possible, also call 911. Call a MDM staff member afterwards.
For large fires within the facility, or forest fires, abandon the facility, taking the 2-way radio if
possible. Move to a safe location and again, report the issue to the summit and if possible, call 911.
Call a MDM staff member and let them know the situation.
Animals and Insects
MDM is a remote facility. There are many wild animals and insects in this area.
If you stumble across a wild animal: talk loudly, make yourself as big as possible and slowly
back away from it. During the night, be careful walking around the facility as there are snakes
that are nocturnal that you may come across. Stinging animals such as scorpions can be seen
around MDM. If stung or bitten, contact an MDM staff member or call up to Kitt Peak (8777)
for medical attention. Ultimately call 9-911 for medical assistance.
MDM is at approximately 6,300 feet and a lot of the atmosphere's protection has been lost at this
elevation. When out in the sun use plenty of sunscreen and use sunglasses.
Drink plenty of water while at MDM. It is easy to become dehydrated here due to the heat and
lack of humidity.
the past, there have been occasional instances where IA's, illegal
aliens, are found to be on the mountain road. If you come across
such a situation, do not stop or get out of your vehicle, even if it
looks like they need assistance. Instead, make note of where they
are located (closest mile marker) and get to a phone to file a report
with the U.S. Border Patrol. They can be reached at the (520)
748-3166. Although it may seem heartless to pass them by, the
Border Patrol is better trained and equipped to provide assistance than
you are. It's also worth noting that it is a crime to transport
IA's, even if they are injured.
In the past, there have been occasional instances where IA's, illegal aliens, are found to be on the mountain road. If you come across such a situation, do not stop or get out of your vehicle, even if it looks like they need assistance. Instead, make note of where they are located (closest mile marker) and get to a phone to file a report with the U.S. Border Patrol. They can be reached at the (520) 748-3166. Although it may seem heartless to pass them by, the Border Patrol is better trained and equipped to provide assistance than you are. It's also worth noting that it is a crime to transport IA's, even if they are injured.
The 2.4m primary mirror has a mercury band installed on it. If it is leaking and mercury is found
in the dome, evacuate the facility and call the authorities.
Spills of More than Two Tablespoons (One Pound): Any time one pound or more of mercury is
released to the environment, it is mandatory to call the National Response Center (NRC). The
NRC hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call (800) 424-8802. Note that because
mercury is heavy, only two tablespoons of mercury weigh about one pound.
The domes have areas that you can bang your head on. Use the hard hats that are located in the
dome to prevent this from occurring.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
These are located in the domes at MDM. If you need to find out information about a chemical
that we use at MDM, you will find it here. The MSDS sheets detail emergency medical
treatments to take for each chemical should you have an incident with these.
Eric Galayda: Phone number on cork board in either control room.
Call up until 10 PM for advice.
Extreme Emergency calls only after 10 pm.
Contact an MDM staff member if you have
any questions during your time at MDM.