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A group is defined as a number of individuals coming to the Observatory at the same time, with the leader of the group as a single contact point who files one Request for Services (per telescope) to cover everyone in the group. An example of a group  would be eight Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) participants coming with one or more chaperones.   Such a group needs to obtain the telescope time and reserve a block of rooms well in advance of the visit.  The leader should contact the Assistant Director for Research Support (anita AT astro.as.utexas.edu) about specific dates and telescopes and contact the Astronomers Lodge (a.lodge AT astro.as.utexas.edu) about room availability. See the policy information below, including a link to the qualtrics form the leader must file.

The Leader should complete a Request for Services (RFS) form at least three weeks prior to the beginning of an  observing run (the RFS form may be found under official travel on the Observatory website). Other group members may submit an RFS for administrative purposes (i.e, if various accounts are paying for travel of differing group members), but the McDonald team will only refer to the one from the identified Team Leader for set-up purposes.

If you will be using Observing facilities, for training and safety purposes we require that you  arrive no less than 24 hours before your first night.


Research Group Policies

1. General

Every group should have one clearly identified organizer. This organizer is responsible for communications with the Observatory prior to a visit and will serve as the primary contact during a visit. If the organizer will not accompany the group they should delegate this responsibility to one of the group chaperones and inform observatory staff who the primary contact during the visit will be.

For student groups, chaperones may be identified in addition to the Group Organizer. Enough chaperones should be identified to ensure one per facility/site if multiple telescopes or research sites are requested. We advise a minimum of one chaperone per seven students. Organizers and chaperones accept responsibility for the actions of the students while on the McDonald Observatory campus. In general, access to facilities other than those identified in the observing/research request is only permitted with prior approval of the OS Manager and Superintendent. This allows for accommodation to be made for other observatory activities.

2. Before your visit

For telescope use, normal proposal deadlines and procedures should be followed. Telescope time is scheduled in three trimesters: December – March, April – July, and August – November.  Queries about the proposal deadlines and process should be directed to Dr. Anita Cochran (anita AT astro.as.utexas.edu).

Schedules will be published roughly one month prior to the start of a trimester.

Four weeks prior to the intended arrival date at the observatory, the Organizer should complete the Group Visits Form (https://utexas.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3gWEejyp1sdTL0y). This will alert observatory staff and trigger visit centered communications.

2.1 The group visit form

This form will include information about your group: chaperone names, group number, arrival and departure dates, research needs.

Telescope intentions should be identified. This does not replace the Request for Services (RFS) form, as it requests less information, but it does allow our staff some additional notice to begin preparing for your arrival.

If you indicate a need for rooms at the Astronomers Lodge (AL), AL staff will reach out separately to activate the room reservation process. Please be prepared to provide a roominglist for your group at this time. The AL has both one king-bed and double twin-bed rooms; you will be asked to provide the number of rooms of each type that you require and the name or names of occupants for each room.

In the event that no telescope time is required, space is given in the form for you to comment on the nature of your visit. This will allow our broader staff to prepare for your arrival and plan to accommodate your needs.

3. During Your Visit

3.1 The Astronomers Lodge

Others may be working or sleeping during your visit. Please keep noise levels in the AL to a respectable level and clean up after yourself.

The AL is an all-inclusive facility; that is meals are included with your stay. Included meals are: a self-service continental breakfast, a hot plated lunch, and a hot plated dinner. Meals can be served carry-out if this is preferred and can be stored in the refrigerator for late pick-up. On your day of arrival, dinner is available upon request. On your day of departure breakfast is available.

If your group would like a first-night night-lunch (in addition to the optional saved dinner) on their arrival day, or a lunch on their departure day,these are available at additional cost.

Please communicate any dietary concerns as early as possible and we will do our best to accommodate your needs. We are unable to accommodate all dietary restrictions. Note: we cannot guarantee no cross contamination of allergens in the kitchen.

If any group member requires special accommodations (due to medical condition or disability) please let us know as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made. All questions concerning lodging should be directed to the AL Manager, Karen Sulewski (a.lodge@astro.as.utexas.edu).

3.2 Telescope Support
We expect all chaperones to be previously trained observers. If a chaperone has not observed with one of the requested telescopes within the past 12-months, they should plan on attending a training run prior to the group visit.

The Organizer and chaperones should schedule a zoom meeting with facility staff one week prior to the run to ensure that all of the group’s needs are addressed and to catch up on any updates or on-going items or issues for the systems. For this purpose, please contact Jessica Washington, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent (Jessica.washington@austin.utexas.edu).

Plan to meet facility staff during the afternoon on the first day of your scheduled telescope time. During this meeting, staff will cover site safety and will begin observer training.

We will adhere to the instrument set-up identified in the RFS supplied by the Group Organizer. This set-up will be confirmed by the local team. For any questions regarding telescope/instrument set-up please contact Observing Support Manager, Coyne Gibson (coyneg@utexas.edu).

3.3 Other Facility Needs
If you would like to schedule tours that are not already included in your group itinerary, please reach out to Jessica Washington, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent (Jessica.washington@austin.utexas.edu), for assistance.

If your visit will not make use of any of our research telescopes (i.e., you are only using the 36-inch for eyepiece viewing, you are here for a non-research workshop, your research is not astronomical) facilitation of your visit will be handled by other appropriate staff. Upon completion of our Group Visit Form the appropriate staff designee will reach out to your group if you are not already working with someone.

Any work/events conducted outside at night will require an approved safety plan. Similarly, any work/events taking place in a typically unoccupied area of the mountain will require an approved safety plan.