MDM Observatory
Observing Report Submission Instructions

General Information

All MDM observers are required to submit an Observer's Report at the end of each night. This report should be filed even if no observing takes place because of poor weather, equipment problems, illness, etc.

To make this easier, we have created a Observer's Report Web Form. This form allows us to establish a standard format for reports, to store them in a central web-based database that can be accessed later, and to email the nightly reports to all recipients on the MDM "report" mailing list (the observatory director, mountain superintendant, and the MDM consortium board members from each institution).

A separate form is provided for submitting Trouble Reports. Please see the Trouble Report Submission Instructions for details.

This document describes how to submit an observer's report with the web form, and describes the entries on the web form.

Submitting an Observer's Report

Step 1: Fill in the Report Form

Go to the Observing Report Form and fill in the blanks. The entries are:
  1. The telescope and instrument you used
  2. Observer name(s) and home institution(s)
  3. Observing Date
  4. Number of hours worked and how they were distributed through the night (e.g., all night, part, no observing, etc.).
  5. The general conditions during the night (photometric, not, etc.)
  6. A check box to note if there were any problems encountered (remember to file a separate Trouble Report!).
  7. A brief summary of the night's activities, including a capsule summary of problems or why no observing took place.
  8. Information on seeing and weather conditions during the night.

Step 2: Review the Draft Report

After filling out the form, hit the Next> button. You will be shown new page with a draft of your report and asked to review it and make changes before final submission. Changes are made by using the Back button on your browser to return to the entry form.


Reports are filed by Observing Date and Telescope. Both of these must be be entered correctly before submitting the final report. The observer filling in the form is responsible for making sure the date & telescope are correct.

If you are resubmitting a report (e.g., to replace an older, bogus report), you will be given a warning and must check a box to confirm that you really want to do that. If you did not set out to replace a report on purpose (e.g., you accidentally chose the wrong date or telescope), please take the warning seriously and verify the date and telescope before checking the box to OK replacement of an existing report.

In case you manage to get past these safeties and overwrite a report you shouldn't have, don't panic. Contact Rick Pogge ( and describe the problem (remember to include the date of the report you think you blew away). Reports that get replaced are not immediately deleted but instead are backed up once, so you get one second chance (but only one).

Step 3: Submit the Final Report

Once you are happy with the report, submit it by hitting the Submit Final Report button that appears below the draft report.

Hitting this button this sets into motion the following actions:
  1. The form is stored in the Observer's Report archive. This has a web-based index that lets you read your report and all previous reports submitted via the web form.

  2. It sends the report via email to all members of the MDM report email list. This list includes the observatory director, mountain superintendant, and the consortium board representatives from the MDM partner institutions.

Trouble Reports

If you encountered any hardware or software problems during the night, no matter how minor, you are also required to submit an accompanying Trouble Report.

To submit a trouble report, check the Problems box on the nightly observing report form, pnd then visit the Trouble Report Form to submit your detailed trouble report. Even minor problems are important to report, as many small things might reveal a pattern that could become a big bad thing later. The run you save may be your own...

Observing Report Form Entries

General Information

Enter the name(s) of the observer(s). The PI's name should appear first.

Enter the home institutions(s) of the observer(s).

Select the telescope you are using from the menu.

Enter the name of the instrument you are using. For example, if using Modspec with the Wilbur CCD, type "Modspec + Wilbur".

Observing Date
Select the local date (not UTC!) of the start of the observing night for this report.

For example, the night starting at sunset on 2008 June 12 and ending at dawn on June 13 would be observing date "2008 Jun 12". For our purposes, an "observing day" runs from noon-to-noon. The form generation script will attempt to guess the appropriate date for the report.

Hours Used
Enter the total number of hours you actually spent collecting data with the telescope. This may include calibration observations like twilight flats, etc.

If there was no observing, enter a zero and select "No Observing" in the Distribution menu (next).

This asks you to select a general statement about how the number of hours you spent observing were distributed over the night. The choices in the pull-down menu range from "All Night" to "No Observing". If you could not observe at all during the night, please select "No Observing" and explain why you could not observe in the Observing Summary field.

Select one of the general statements from the menu that best describes the general observing conditions during the night. The choices are "Photometric", "Non-Photometric", "Mixed" (i.e., some photometric and some not), "Overcast" (just clouds w/o precipitation), and "Bad Weather" (e.g., snow, rain, fog, etc., not just clouds between you and the rest of the universe).

There is also a Weather Summary table for you to record specific information about conditions through the night. You are also encouraged to include additional comments about conditions in the Observing Summary field.

If you encountered any hardware or software problems during the night that prevented you from observing, check box next to "Yes", and describe the problem in the Observing Summary field. Please note that "problems" does not include bad weather, unless the problem was caused by the weather (e.g., the dome sticking due to freezing weather).

In addition, you are required to submit an accompanying Trouble Report if you encounter any hardware or software problems, no matter how minor. The mailing list for trouble reports is different from the nightly report list (although there is some overlap).

Observing Summary
Enter a narrative summary of the night's activities in the box provided. You may type as little or as much as you feel necessary. The format of text in this box will be preserved in the final report. You can also cut and paste into this box from your favorite screen editor if that helps (the editing facilities of web-based forms are primitive at best).

Even you did not observe due to bad weather or equipment problems, please provide brief summary of why no observing occurred.

Note: because of how the report data gets processed, it is necessary to strip out any quote (") marks. If you want to report arcseconds, write arcsec instead of " for the units.

Seeing & Weather Conditions

You are asked to record the Seeing and Weather conditions at the beginning, middle, and end of the night in bottom section of the form. The entries is this section are as follows:
Bad Weather
If you were prevented from observing by bad weather during all or part of the night, record here the type of weather you encountered (clouds, rain, snow, etc.), and specify by checking the appropriate box whether it lasted all night or just part of the night. "Bad" in this case means any weather that keeps you from observing, even if not bad in the sense of unpleasant to be out in.

If bad weather only lasted part of the night (permitting you to observe even a little), note the approximate UT times when you were shut down (times to the nearest quarter-hour are sufficient). Use either HH:MM or HHMM format to denote times.

Record the typical seeing (to the nearest 0.1") during the beginning, middle and end of the night. If the seeing was variable, pick a typical value for that period, and add a comment to that effect in the Other field below it in the table.

It is best if your seeing estimate is an actual measurement of the FWHM of star images. If you are providing only by-eye estimates, please note this in the "Other" box.

Record the typical cloud-cover conditions during the beginning, middle and end of the night. Entries range from "Clear" to "Overcast", including fog and smoke.

Record the wind conditions during the beginning, middle and end of the night. Entries range from "Calm" to "High", with "Above Limit" for the case when the winds were above the safe operating limits of the telescope (>40 MPH).

This space is used to provide any additional information you may wish to note about the weather conditions. For example: variable seeing, sudden changes in conditions, etc.

Use the "BACK" button on your browser to return to the Observer's Report Form in progress.

Updated: 2008 November 28 [rwp/osu]