WIYN Observatory


The purpose of this handbook is to answer many of the questions that you might have about your visit to the WIYN Observatory. This handbook is intended as a supplement to the KPNO User Handbook. Please refer to the KPNO User Handbook for details regarding planning your trip to Kitt Peak, directions to the NOIRLab Tucson office and to Kitt Peak, the mountain environment, and using the NOIRLab Tucson facilities. If you have suggestions for improvements to the WIYN User Handbook, please contact the WIYN Operations Coordinator via email at heidi.schweiker at noirlab.edu.

Applying for Time on WIYN

If you are an observer interested in applying for time (NOIRLab or University time) on the WIYN 3.5m Telescope you must submit the standard NOIRLab Observing Proposal form. Complete information is available on the NOIRLab Observing Program Home Page. Deadlines and further information for university partners can be found here.

To ensure we fully understand the needs of your program we ask that all proposers provide as much detail as possible on your proposal. Please review the WIYN Proposal Information page for further information.

Prior to proposal submission, please review our up-to-date information about instrumentation on the WIYN Status page.

There are a few key requirements for new visiting observers as well as new remote observers. New visiting observers, that do not have PhD status, MUST be accompanied by an experienced on-site observer. The experienced observer may be on any status level. New remote observers MUST have previously observed on-site at WIYN and have used their remote observing instrument on site, no matter what their status level. Please review the WIYN Observing Policies for a full list of observing and housing policies, and the WIYN Remote Observing Policies for a full list of policies for remote observing.

Also review the Instrument Status page for any projects that may cause constraints to the upcoming semester.

In Preparation for Your Run

If you are a University or NOIRLab observer and you have been granted time by your institution or NOIRLab, you must submit an Observing Run Preparation (ORP) form prior to your observing run to make sure that we understand all of the equipment needs for your observing run. The form should be completed at least six weeks prior to your observing run. The completed form will be distributed to the appropriate support personnel. Once the ORP form has been received and processed, you will be given a visitor authorization for your trip to Kitt Peak. Minimum instrument configuration information that needs to be specified on the ORP includes:

In addition to the ORP form, in preparation for your Hydra run please submit your Hydra configuration files through the Hydra File Submission Form.

You may also submit a coordinate cache on the Coordinate Cache Submission Form. This must be submitted at least 2 weeks in advance of your observing run.

Questions about your instrument configuration or observation planning can be directed to the appropriate Instrument Support Personnel.

Telescope Operations Support

The dome will be opened 30 minutes before sunset by KPNO Observing Support, and an Observing Assistant (OA) will be available from sunset until sunrise every night on which the telescope is scheduled. Special arrangements can be made for observing assistants to arrive early or stay late to accommodate special observing or calibration needs. In these special cases, KPNO Observing Support can provide daytime assistance for telescope operations, however advance notice is required. If daytime support is anticipated this must be noted on the Observing Run Preparation form.

Observing Assistants (OAs) will be responsible for the safety of personnel and equipment and will have sole responsibility to determine when it is safe to open the dome and to operate the equipment. Standards for opening and closing the facility (wind, humidity, dust, threatening clouds, etc.) will be set by WIYN and NOIRLab and will conform to those of other NOIRLab facilities on Kitt Peak. OAs will be responsible for basic telescope operation: target acquisition, finding and acquiring guide stars, tracking, maintaining the active optics, etc. to assist the observer(s) with their program. OAs will, if requested, advise observers on general telescope, instrument, software, and data acquisition and reduction practices.

Instrument Support

KPNO Instrument Support will perform all facility instrument configurations for observers prior to their observing run. Instrument "start-up" assistance (tutorial on instrument operation) will also be provided for observers on the first night of their run, if required, by KPNO Instrument Support. Our Observing Support Policies are as follows:

Check-in/Check-out Time for Observers

Observers should plan to be on the mountain by 1pm of the first day of their run if they require an instrument start (instrument support personnel will plan to meet you at WIYN at 1:30pm unless previous arrangements have been made). Observers must be finished using the facilities at WIYN by noon of the day following the last night of their run. This is to assure that the facilities are available for the observers coming in. If you plan to arrive after 1pm, be sure to alert your instrument support person.

Observers should check-in at the Administration Building upon arrival to pickup keys, a hand-held radio (if desired) and a map of Kitt Peak (if needed). Upon departure the keys and hand-held radio should be returned to the Administration Building.

Tours of WIYN

Because WIYN is a high-tech telescope, it is one of the main attractions on Kitt Peak for observers at other KPNO facilities. The policy for visits to WIYN by other astronomers is that they are required to arrange visits with the WIYN observers prior to showing up. Although we don't want to discourage visitors to WIYN, the WIYN observers should not feel any obligation to allow disruptions to their work by unscheduled visits. Public tours of WIYN are not currently supported. For more information, consult the complete WIYN Visitor Policy.

Problems During the Night

The first level of response to problems, which arise during the night, is an assessment by the Observing Assistant. He or she will determine the extent of the problem, fix it if possible, and/or advise the observer of possible work-arounds. If the problem cannot be overcome by the OA and if it affects observing efficiency, the OA will call for assistance from the observing technicians, Site Engineer, Telescope Scientist, Mountain Engineering or Tucson Engineering, as appropriate. In cases where observing can continue at a reduced level of efficiency and without danger to the equipment, the decision to continue or to carry out the repair will be made by the observer.

Safety at WIYN

When you are on the mountain, an Observing Support staff member will give you a safety tour of the telescope facility pointing out emergency exits, locations of fire extinguishers and light switches, and precautions for your own personal protection. At the same time, emergency procedures, safety guidelines, and use of the phone system and radios will be reviewed. Any safety concerns that you may have during your visit should be reported to the Obseving Assistant and submitted to the WIYN Operations Manager. Further information is contained in the KPNO Emergency Procedures manual and in the WIYN Safety Policy, both of which are located in the observing room of the telescope or available upon request to the Kitt Peak Support Office (kpno at noirlab.edu).

Instrumentation at WIYN

The WIYN Telescope is configured for four instrument ports. The primary instrument ports are at the Nasmyth foci with the Hydra multi-object spectrograph or Instrument Adapter Subsystem (IAS) mounted on the MOS port and the One Degree Imager (ODI) on the WIYN port. A modified cassegrain port (classical Cassegrain with re-imaging optics) is also available for instrumentation but currently does not support instrumentation. The folded cassegrain port has not been developed.


The Instrument Adapter Subsystem (IAS) is the general Scientific Instrument (SI) interface and guider for the WIYN telescope. It consists of a main housing, which resides on one of the Nasmyth Instrument Rotators (the MOS NIR), plus several power supplies, CPU's, an image processor and other support electronics distributed on the WIYN telescope and in the observatory building. The box contains 20 remotely controllable mechanisms that perform the following functions:

Details about instrument mounting, cable routing, and electronics installation can be obtained by contacting the WIYN Site Engineer. A document describing these details is planned for future development.


Hydra is a multi-object spectrometer that utilizes fiber optics placed in the focal plane to simultaneously transmit the light from numerous objects to a bench mounted spectrograph that records the spectrum of each object onto a CCD detector. Hydra is used in conjuction with the Bench Spectrograph.

Hydra Positioner Characteristics:

Bench Spectrograph Characteristics:

Detailed information about using the Hydra instrument and specific capabilities of the instrument can be found in the Hydra Users Manual.


SparsePak is a sparsely packed fiber optics bundle with nearly-integral core that has a special fiber geometry designed to optimize performance for the specific scientific goal of studying the spatial distribution of the internal motions of gas and stars in nearby galaxies, but is also useful in general for the study of galactic and extra-galactic nebulae. SparsePak is mounted on the Indiana echelle spectrograph adapter head (WIFOE) which provides a pellical for viewing the fiber array. The fiber cable feeds the same Bench Spectrograph that is used with the Hydra multi-object spectrograph and can be used in any of the spectrograph configurations.

SparsePak has the following characteristics:

Detailed information about SparsePak can be found in the SparsePak Manual.


HexPak and GradPak are two new Intergral Field Units (IFU's) that feed into the Bench Spectrograph. The new designs of the IFUs seek to resolve the competing needs of large grasp per fiber (telescope collecting area multiplied by the solid angle subtended by the fiber) to obtain sufficient S/N on low surface brightness features vs. smaller fibers to achieve better spatial resolution. HexPak was designed with face-on and early type galaxies in mind, with the smaller fibers to be placed on the higher surface brightness galaxy core. GradPak is ideal for edge-on systems, with the smaller fibers placed on or near the midplane. However, the use of the new IFUs is in no way restricted to these design goals; users should feel free to employ either fiber head to optimal effect for observing any type of extended object.

NOTE: As they are still PI-level, rather than facility, instruments, it is necessary to work with the PI before submitting a proposal to use these new IFUs. Please read the introduction letters from the WIYN director and the instrument PI.

HexPak has a high spatial resolution core of 0.94 arcsec fibers subtending 6 arcsec in diameter, surrounded by a hexagonal array of 2.9 arcsec fibers subtending a 40.9 arcsec diameter. GradPak is a 39 X 55 arcsec rectangular array with rows of fibers varying from 1.9 arcsec to 5.6 arcsec.


WHIRC is a 2K x 2K near-infrared imager (~1 - 2.5 microns) used with the WIYN Tip-Tilt Module (WTTM). WHIRC + WTTM will provide a powerful combination of high spatial resolution in K, with expected typical images of ~0.25", and best ~0.15", high sensitivity, and a moderately wide FOV (3.3'x3.4'; area on sky/area per pixel = 4 x 106). It is a general purpose instrument for a wide range of science, offering the standard broadband filters (JHK), as well as a number of narrowband filters. WHIRC has the following characteristics:

For detailed information about WHIRC see the WHIRC Information Page.


The One Degree Imager (ODI)

Detailed information can be found within the ODI web pages.


Currently, University instruments can be only mounted on the MOS Naysmith port with the IAS. Details for mounting instruments (i.e. bolt pattern, space limitations, etc.) can be obtained by contacting the WIYN Site Engineer (see contact information). If you are planning to use a university instrument at WIYN, please include details in your Observing Run Preparation form. If it is a first-time installation for an instrument you must submit the Instrument Request form contained in the WIYN New Instrumentation Policy (WODC 00-04). If you require resources and service beyond what is provided for normal operations you must submit a proposal per the WIYN Resource Allocation Policy (WODC 00-03). Contact the WIYN Director for copies of the policies.

Universities will be responsible for installation and removal of their instruments at WIYN unless prior arrangements are made. Universities will be required to support their own instruments. Basic test equipment is available on-site or through Mountain Electronics. A limited stock of basic electronic components is also available on the mountain. On-site storage at WIYN is limited. Therefore, it is recommended that equipment not be left at the site after your observing run, unless it is used on a frequent basis. If you are planning to leave equipment at the site, please make prior arrangements to do so.

The WIYN House

The WIYN house is a one story detached house located on Kitt Peak. The house is leased by WIYN from NOIRLab and is used exclusively for visiting WIYN University partners. Observers visiting WIYN in the NOIRLab classic observing mode must use KPNO dorms. The house has two-bedrooms with sleeping provisions for four people, a fully applianced kitchen, a living room area, and laundry facilities. Visitors using the WIYN house will be expected to clean-up after themselves. If you are unfamiliar with the Kitt Peak mountain top please view the Kitt Peak map detailing locations of the WIYN domes and houses as well as KPNO dorms.

Information on allocation of the WIYN houses can be found here.

Using KPNO Dorms and Meal Service

University astronomers have the option of using KPNO dorms and meal service instead of the WIYN House. Details about the rates can be found in the KPNO User Handbook. Unless you are exempted by policy, charges for dorm rooms and/or meals are due and payable no later than 15:00 on the day of your departure. If you are departing the mountain on a weekend or holiday, all payments are due on Friday afternoon by 15:00. All charges can be paid by check, cash, MasterCard, or Visa at the mountain receptionist. For current pricing contact the Kitt Peak Support Office (kpno at noirlab.edu).

Office Space

The Kitt Peak Library and Reading Room will be available to WIYN observers at the same level provided to visiting observers at NOIRLab facilities.

Telephone Use

IMPORTANT! Cell phone use is not allowed on the mountain!! It interferes with the radio telescopes.

The telephones located on the WIYN site have outside lines available. Long distance calls can be made from these phones. If you make long-distance calls, it is preferred that you use a calling card or reverse the charges. However, charges can be billed back to the respective institutions or added to your bill if necessary. Please let the mountain receptionist know the date you placed the call and the number called for billing purposes.

The telephone at the WIYN house is for local-call use only. Long distance calls can only be made from this phone using a credit card or with Kitt Peak Operator assistance.

An alternative is to use Skype, which is available on the WIYN observers' computers in the control room. You will need a personal Skype account.


WIYN does not have a vehicle available to visiting university astronomers. However, WIYN observers will be allowed to use NOIRLab shuttle vehicles for commuting between NOIRLab Headquarters in Tucson to Kitt Peak as long as they have a current GSA license. Refer to the KPNO User Handbook for the shuttle schedule. Using a rental car as transportation on the mountain top is allowed, however, you must note so in your ORP. Contact the Kitt Peak Support Office (kpno at noirlab.edu) for further information.

Data Backup

There are several resources for backing up your data. While it's recommended to download your data to a portable harddrive or to your laptop, CD and DVD writers are available for backing up data. Read more on Getting Your Data Home.

Reference Materials

Basic astronomical reference materials are located in the control room at WIYN. Additional reference materials are located in the Kitt Peak library and Reading Room. Information about availability of reference materials can be obtained by contacting the Kitt Peak Support Office (kpno at noirlab.edu).

Tucson Resources

Visitor space is available in the NOIRLab Headquarters for WIYN visitors. Details about visiting NOIRLab Headquarters can be found in the KPNO User Handbook.

WIYN Contacts

For a complete, up-to-date list of WIYN personnel, including WIYN Director, Instrument Support Personnel and Telescope Operators see the Contacts Listing.

NSF University of Wisconsin Indiana University Purdue University Pennsylvania State University Princeton University

Last modified: 11-Jan-2023 12:58:13 MST