Observational astronomy projects, as if we were to study the cosmos from Mars

Improving our knowledge of the “Martian” nighty sky through observational astronomy

by Mariona Badenas Agustí

The Martian atmosphere is incredibly thin compared to that of the Earth, so astronomical observations from Mars will be less affected by atmospheric contamination effects, such as seeing and absorption. During my stay at the MDRS, I will take advantage of the remote and dry location of this facility to replicate the observing conditions on Mars. In particular, I will perform three research projects in the field of observational astronomy. First, I will create color-magnitude diagrams of stellar clusters –that is, groups of gravitationally bound stars with similar ages and chemical compositions. Second, I will survey the sky in search for new asteroids and other minor objects. This project will contribute to international efforts to improve our Space Situational Awareness, namely, our knowledge of hazardous objects in the sky. Finally, I will perform astrophotography of deep-sky objects –including galaxies, and supernova remnants— with the goal of sharing my passion for astronomy and the beauty of the night sky with a general audience.

I never went into physics or the astronaut corps to become a role model. But after my first flight, it became clear to me that I was one. And I began to understand the importance of that to people. Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.

Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space in 1983