Although I don’t consider myself to be an amateur astronomer I have always been an astronomy fan. My dad gave me a telescope for Christmas when I was around 8 years old.  I can easily identify a dozen constellations and know when I am looking at a planet versus a star. In undergrad I took astronomy as one of my required classes. Going into the HI-SEAS Mars Desert Research station as the crew astronomer is a fantastic opportunity for me to develop new skills and rekindle my love of astronomy.

The Musk Mars Desert Observatory (MDRS)

The Musk Mars Desert Observatory (MDRS)

You may be wondering how a geologist gets named the crew astronomer. Good question. Well, it simply came down to the fact that the most qualified astronomer, Simon Engler, was already named the crew engineer. So I delightfully volunteered to take on the astronomy duties.

Celestron 14-inch CGE1400 telescope

Celestron 14-inch CGE1400 telescope

The Musk Observatory is equipped with a Celestron 14-inch CGE1400 telescope. I have never used anything like it before. Don’t worry, the Mars Society made sure I was trained before taking on the astronomer duties. Having Simon in the crew also puts me at ease. He has a lot of experience working with telescopes. Together we are doing a project on binary stars. To be honest with you, I just want to take cool pictures of pretty stellar objects.

In honor of my upcoming gig as a crew astronomer I would like to share with you a poem I wrote a long time ago. Orion is my favorite constellation. I’m sure it is a lot of peoples favorite constellation. So here is my poem along with some of the facebook comments I received when I originally posted it. Please let me know if you have a favorite stellar object by posting a comment below. I want to hear from you!

Tribute to Orion and the stars at night

Tribute to Orion and the stars at night

Update January 16, 2013

So Simon and I had our official first astronomy night last night. We went out about 9 pm at night and the sky was amazing. The first thing we needed to do was a star alignment. We had a few issues because but we later realized that this was because the finder scope was not centered correctly. Simon will correct that at the beginning of our next session.

Simon manually guided the scope to the Orion Nebulae and Jupiter while I got unbearably cold. I soon realized that maybe I am not cut out to be an astronomer…well, at least not a cold weather astronomer. Simon, my Canadian counterpart, was surprised by lack of tolerance for the cold. Living in Phoenix for the past 20 years has certainly softened my resistance to cold. The rest of the crew came out to look at Jupiter, and it turned out be be a good night for all of us.