By Dr. Peter Detterline
Director, MDRS Observatory
There is a new star rising at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) that allows crew and professional astronomers, as well as college and high school students, the ability to incorporate cutting edge technology to explore the wonders of the universe.
MDRS Robotic Observatory works in a similar manner as today’s modern
facilities, and indeed as an observatory would work on the Red Planet
someday in the future. No one physically looks through the telescope
and no one enters the observatory. In addition, astronomers are not
required to stay up all night collecting data. Instead they program
what celestial observations they want to achieve (target, filter, and
exposure) sometime during the day. On a clear night the dome opens
automatically and begins the sequence of taking the night’s images when
those objects are best positioned in the sky. The images are then
downloaded onto the observer’s computer, where the astronomer can
retrieve and process the data the next day.