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.

The 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.