Pre-Observing Preparation

As the original note in the observer’s handbook says, “Preparation can’t stressed [sic] enough!”

But, seriously, preparation for observing may be the most important step.

Here are some suggestions, and things to bring.

Check the weather before you leave for the telescope. A few good weather resources are located here.

Wear appropriate clothing.
In the winter, it gets really cold at night in the dome. Make sure to check the forecast, not only for clouds but also for the temperature!

Bug repellent.
If it’s warmer, there will be bugs. Just remember not to use bug spray in the dome.

USB Flash Drive.
You will have lots of images you will want to take home with you, so a USB stick to copy data to your own computer or take it home will be useful. ~2 GB or so is a good size.

Bring your Laptop.
Really nice for keeping notes/observing log. It's easier to see your notes in the dark on a laptop screen than writing on paper. It's also a good way to stay occupied during long observing runs!

Flashlight (white and red)
You need at least one. The telescope is really hard to see in the dark, and it moves…

Observing Log.
Whether you use a laptop, your lab notebook, or a piece of scratch paper, you need to keep track of what images you take, when, how many, of what, where you store them on the computer, etc. Not all of this information is necessarily available in the automatically generated header files, so take some notes! You can find a spreadsheet sample observing log here or a pdf sample here.

Finder Charts.
I cannot stress this enough. You need a finder chart, at bare minimum, for each target object. Preferably, a digital copy (on a computer or USB thumb drive) from DSS or similar, with WCS coordinates. This can easily be downloaded using SAO Image DS9 from one of the servers. With a DS9 image, you can also use the field-of-view template as a template to see your field and the guider camera field. Your finder charts should be at least 60' x 60' in size.

Target Information.
You should also have the right ascension and declination for each object readily available. The hour angle and/or the time the object crosses the meridian is also very useful. Staralt/airmass plots are quite handy, too, but do NOT replace finder charts. For each target, choose one or two reference stars for aligning the telescope. You can add new reference stars to the list, as long as you

There is a microwave and a refrigerator out at RHO, and you're welcome to use them (although they're ancient, they work). Caffeine, sugar, and snacks are all nice to have if you will be out for any length of time.