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U-M is a partner in the MDM Observatory on Kitt Peak, Arizona, with a 1/6th share of its 2.4- and 1.3-meter telescopes, each equipped with an array of optical and infrared instruments. U-M’s portal to the Northern Sky, MDM complements research at Magellan in areas from galaxy clusters to star formation.

Michigan has had a central role in this observatory since its founding in 1975. Its original telescope was U-M’s 1.3-m instrument, and the facility was then named the McGraw-Hill Observatory, after the foundation that funded the telescope’s move from Michigan to Arizona. In the 1980s, the 2.4-m Hiltner telescope was added, named after William “Al” Hiltner, discoverer of the interstellar polarization of starlight and chair of the U-M Department of Astronomy. This is when the observatory’s name was changed to MDM, which stands for “Michigan-Dartmouth-MIT,” the facility’s original three partners. These partners have changed over time; MDM is currently owned and operated by a consortium of five institutions, including two original members – U-M and Dartmouth – as well as Columbia University, Ohio State University, and Ohio University.

"Many of our students have learned to be observers at mdm. The facility's distinctive because users are not only scientists but also in charge of the entire telescope from positioning to troubleshooting. Mdm provides an observing experience many universities can't offer."

—Prof Chris Miller

In addition to being used for faculty and graduate student research, MDM is now the centerpiece of a unique upper-level undergraduate class at U-M, Astro 461: Ground-Based Observatories. Developed by Professor Sally Oey, this four-week class gives students hands-on exposure to  observing at a true research facility. Students form small teams, submit observing proposals, carry out the observations, and present their findings. It's the ideal preparation for future telescope work.