Archive for Facilities

Construction at the MMT

Construction began on January 11, 2010 on an Instrument Repair Facility at the MMT summit.  It is scheduled to be completed by summer.  Construction is taking place during the weekdays between 8:00am – 5:00pm.  There are no plans for work to be done on weekends.  The construction site is cordoned off with cones or is within a chained-off area. 

Please be aware that construction trucks will be on the Mt. Hopkins road and there could be short delays.  The contractors are using Whipple radios when driving up and down.  Whenever possible, please carpool to minimize traffic and also parking at the summit.  Currently, there is plenty of parking and the goal is to keep parking available for astronomers throughout the construction.  However, please leave keys in vehicles in case they need to be moved.

A webcam showing the construction appears on the MMT homepage in the bottom right-hand corner.  We will continue to post information and progress on the construction on this Blog.


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New Astronomers Cheat Sheets

To help our visiting astronomers perform tasks either specific to the MMT or for any of our instrumentation we have pulled together a number of “cheat sheets”. You can find these “how to” helpers on the web site or there are hardcopies in a binder located in the control room (top shelf in the bookshelf in the middle of the room).

We have started with a small handful of cheat sheets and will continue to build this resource until we cover all the tasks needed. If you encounter something you feel needs a cheat sheet during your time at the observatory please request it in the Astronomer’s Log.

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MMT January Observing Statistics

Time Summary

Percentage of time scheduled for observing                    90.2
Percentage of time scheduled for engineering                   9.8
Percentage of time scheduled for sec/instr change            0.0
Percentage of time lost to weather                                    45.1
Percentage of time lost to instrument                                 0.5
Percentage of time lost to telescope                                  2.8
Percentage of time lost to general facility                           0.0
Percentage of time lost to environment (non-weather)       0.0
Percentage of time lost                                                     48.4


Breakdown of time lost to telescope: secondary (f/15 problem),

pointing/computer problem with AO, PCR server, wfs camera,

M1 panic, computer

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Mt. Hopkins Road Closures – Feb. 2

Another section of Mt. Hopkins Road will have guardrails installed beginning Monday, February 2 around kilometer 4. 

Although the installation will be around km 4, a section between km 2.2 (by the astronomy vista) and km 4.2 will be closed.   There is room to turn around at these locations.

Road closures:  Monday through Friday
7:00 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.
8:45 a.m. – 12:00 noon
12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Open times:
Before 7:00 a.m.
8:15 a.m. – 8:45 a.m.
12:00 noon – 12:30 p.m.
After 4:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday-all day & night

Flagmen will be stationed at each end of the section. Your cooperation will be appreciated and please drive slow through the work area.

We anticipate that installation will continue through March 30, but you will be given updates.

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MMT November Observing Statistics

Time Summary


Percentage of time scheduled for observing          100.0
Percentage of time scheduled for engineering          0.0
Percentage of time scheduled for sec/instr change   0.0
Percentage of time lost to weather                      26.2
Percentage of time lost to instrument                    1.2
Percentage of time lost to telescope                     1.5
Percentage of time lost to general facility              0.3
Percentage of time lost to environ. (non-weather)   0.0

Percentage of time lost                                      29.2


Breakdown of hours lost to telescope: 5.25 (wfs failure, hacksaw crash, pointing/rotator issues

Breakdown of hours lost to facility: 1.0 unscheduled instrument change

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Instrument Change Movie!

At the MMT we do a lot of juggling of our three secondary mirrors & our current suite of 13 instruments. Over the last couple of years we have become so efficient at doing secondary/instrument changes that it is a task that is normally never seen by the astronomers as everything is completed before they arrive at the telescope. To give you all a small insight into the effort it takes to reconfigure the telescope we have put together this little movie for your viewing pleasure. The movie shows one day in the life of the telescope day crew as we change from a setup of f/5 secondary with Hecto to the f/15 deformable secondary and CLIO.

For best viewing have your computer speakers on .. Enjoy!

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Some excellent recent seeing

Fall and spring tend to have the best weather in southern Arizona.  They are the transitional periods between the summer monsoon season and winter rainy season and are usually dominated by strong high pressure systems.  In addition to clear, dry air these weather patterns also tend to produce the best seeing.  We have been in such a pattern for the past couple weeks or so and have had good to excellent seeing during this time.  The best was on the night of October 25-26.  Shown here is a histogram of the seeing as measured with our Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor.  The best seeing here is 0.29″ at an airmass of 1.22 which corresponds to a seeing at zenith of 0.26″!

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