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Astronomy and Physics FAQ's

What do I need to do to prepare for observing on a given night?

First, in order to observe you must have signed up on Observatory Scheduler for that particular night. Please include what you hope to accomplish that night (i.e., CCD pictures or visual observations). If you did not sign up but would still like to observe, call the lab assistant on duty to find out if there is any extra room.

Second, make sure you bring a pencil, paper, and your lab handouts so you have materials to work with and can look up any questions you have in these handouts. If it is cold, wear plenty of warm clothing! Despite the fact that you'll be working in a dome and heated control room, it can still be bone-chillingly cold on a winter night.

The observatory is locked and I can't find the lab assistant who is supposed to be on duty! What do I do?

First, call the person who is supposed to be on duty. If he/she is not there, call another lab assistant on the list and politely ask is they could lab assist for the night. In the event that you cannot get anyone else to lab assist, call Steve Sanders and see if he would be available for the evening. If you can't locate Steve, call Dr. Bradstreet.

If the weather will not allow for an evening of observing, can I still come up to the observatory to do research?

Yes. The lab assistants on duty are required to be present during the allotted time, so they should be in the observatory regardless of the weather. Remember that they also have work to do, and may not choose to stay very long if the weather is bad. In other words, if you are supposed to start observing at 7:00 PM but the weather is bad, the lab assistant may only stay in the observatory until 7:30 PM if no one shows up to do anything. Thus, if you are planning on working in the observatory on a cloudy night, it is best to arrive at the beginning of the observing session so you do not miss the lab assistant.

Don't forget that certain materials for the notebooks and the lab can only be found in the observatory. The books available in the control room are not to be taken out at any time. Also, don't forget to prepare for the telescope test during the semester. You may wish to stay in the observatory on a cloudy night to use these books for research or to practice setting up the telescope, cameras, computers, etc., for the telescope test.

What time should I arrive to observe?

Generally, a good time to arrive would be ½ hr before sunset. This will give you enough time to set everything up and get settled before it gets dark. If you are taking CCD pictures, you may wish to arrive earlier, since the setup is not as straightforward as doing visual observations. However, the lab assistant is supposed to be in the Observatory at the time noted on the Observatory Scheduler.

I can't arrive until after the beginning of the night. Is it alright to come late?

If you happen to be working late, have class, etc., then there is obviously nothing you can do to avoid being late. Remember that arriving late means that you have not been involved in the setup process, something you need to know how to do. Please call the lab assistant on duty and let them know that you will be late so they can be looking for you. This will also prevent you from getting locked out.

I have a friend who would like to see the observatory. Can he/she come up for the night?

Generally, it is not wise to bring guests with you for the observing session. Both you and the other students have work to do, and "babysitting" another person may get in the way. All guests have to be cleared beforehand with Dr. Bradstreet sometime during the day before observing. We do offer public observing nights, by reservation only.

A stranger has just wandered into the observatory. What do I do?

Every once in a while a stranger will come into the observatory during a night of observing. Remember that the public doesn't always realize that they are not allowed in the observatory anytime they wish. In general, let the lab assistant deal with the individual. If the person approaches you directly, please tell them that a class is currently in session, let them know about public observing nights, and politely ask them to leave. Also, some of these people may have given money to the building of the facility, so do not be rude. The best way to avoid these scenarios is to remind the lab assistant to lock all the exterior doors once everyone has arrived.

The lab assistant/certain students are doing too much of the work and I'm not learning how to do anything! What should I do?

Sometimes certain students and/or lab assistants can get carried away and do all the setting up, moving the dome/telescope/picture taking, etc. This is not beneficial to you or them, since you are responsible for running the telescope and knowing how to operate the equipment. Politely remind him/her that everyone needs to know how to do everything. Sharing the responsibilities of setting up, observing, and closing down is the best way to approach the lab time.

Remember, the lab assistant is just that - an assistant. He/She is not required to do everything for you. Generally, they should show you how to do something once, and the next time you should do it for yourself. If you are confused about a certain task, please ask the lab assistant; that is what they are there for. Also, much of the pertinent information can be found on the observatory website; browse there for more information.

Where can I find information on performing a certain task in the observatory? How do I ________ ?

Besides having the lab assistants available on your observing night, you also should have the lab handouts.  These detail much or all of the information on how to run the telescope, use the camera, etc.

We also are working on placing various help files on our website that will detail how to use everything.  These can be found under the Equipment Setups page.

The site index/searchable help for the observatory website will also detail much of the information on setting up the camera, image linking, visual observing, etc...

I'm hungry/thirsty. Can I have food and drinks in the observatory?

This is a touchy subject. We are sensitive to the fact that observing requires hours of work, and people do get hungry and thirsty. Food and drinks are not allowed in the control room or the domes. The outside hallway is allowed, however, you are responsible for any damage to equipment, tables, or the rugs if food is dropped or beverages spilled. Please leave the Observatory at least as clean as when you started and throw away any trash you make.

Where can I find the phone number for ______?

The phone number for the current lab assistants should be located on the Observatory Scheduler.

Also, searching the student/faculty directory can help locate a persons phone number.

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