To check out the telescopes or binoculars, you need to get authorized
, pick a date
, and inform us
about your plans. We have several tools
to help you plan your session. Finally, we have some suggestions
for people who don't know how to use these telescopes, but want to do some stargazing.
Caltech students, staff, and faculty may reserve CRO equipment for observing labs or personal use, subject to the following restrictions:
- Telescopes and other equipment may be handled only by individuals who have demonstrated that they are sufficiently knowledgeable and responsible to use them in the proper fashion ("authorized users"). If you are not authorized, you can ask an authorized user (such as a friend or one of the CRO staff) to observe with you, or become authorized yourself before checking out the scope.
- We have a strict "first come, first serve" policy. You can reserve a telescope for the same night, or for weeks or even months in advance. You can check the reservation calendar to see when the equipment you want is available. We strongly encourage course staff to avoid conflicts by reserving any telescopes they need as soon as their lab schedule is finalized.
- The "fixed" telescopes (currently the C-14 and C-10) can only be checked out for rooftop observing.
- The portable telescopes all include their own set of eyepieces. Please do not mix these eyepieces between telescopes.
Checking Out Equipment
To check out a telescope:
- First make sure you or a fellow observer have been authorized for all the equipment you plan to use. If you wish to become authorized, schedule an authorization test before checking out the equipment for observing.
- Check that the equipment you want is free on the reservation calendar.
- If the equipment is free, send an email to CRO saying when and for what purpose you want to reserve it. Always send us an email, even if you are planning to observe the same night, even if you have rooftop access, even if you already told one of us in person. This lets us better keep track of how much use the facilities are getting.
- We will update the calendar and give you access to the CRO storeroom in Cahill 402.
- Make sure you have all the parts – for example, our portable telescopes each come with one or more eyepieces, and the C-8's mount is kept in two pieces.
- You are free to observe with non-authorized users at your discretion. However, you are responsible for any equipment you have checked out, whether or not you are the one physically handling it.
- Try to return any equipment you have checked out by noon of the next day. If you want to return it as soon as you are done observing, so much the better.
This is a shared resource, and thus falls under the precepts of the Caltech Honor Code. Take good care of the equipment entrusted to you, and return it to the observatory in a timely fashion so that others have an equal opportunity to use it. Repeated failure to follow these simple rules will result in a curse being placed upon you so that it is never clear when you want to observe.
CRO equipment may be handled only by individuals ("authorized users") who have demonstrated that they are sufficiently knowledgeable and responsible to use them in the proper fashion. Any member of the Caltech community can become authorized. JPL staff can access the telescopes by special arrangement.
Each telescope has its own peculiarities, so you must be authorized separately for each instrument. Just because you've been checked out on the C-14 does not mean you know how to use the C-10 (although they are similar enough that it will be easy to learn the latter). In addition, you must be separately authorized for solar observing, for use of binoculars,
and for each individual CCD model. We will keep track of who has been trained on which instruments.
Caltech's rooftop access policies prohibit us from granting card access to every authorized user. We will be happy to let you on to the roof when you need to access equipment. In very rare cases, we may be able to make an exception and grant rooftop access to very frequent observers.
Caltech students, staff, or faculty who wish to become authorized users should follow these steps:
- Pick a telescope on which to be authorized. Each of our telescopes is best suited for a different observing style, but all (except the Galileoscopes) can be used for general stargazing. You can always get authorized for another telescope later.
- If you have little or no familiarity with small telescopes, you should have someone teach you. Befriend an amateur astronomer, or ask us to show you the ropes. Having some actual observing time under your belt is a good idea. Remember, if you want to practice you can always observe with an already-authorized user.
- Whether you are new to small scopes or not, read the online manual for the telescope on which you want to be authorized, and be familiar with all the procedures described therein. Pay particular attention to the list of "Warnings" in the documentation – these are key points which you ignore at your peril.
- Make an appointment with us for an authorization test. You will be asked to describe and demonstrate your understanding of the procedures. Once you have satisfied us that you know what you're doing, you'll be added to the list of users.