Crew 167 Astronomy Reports

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April 3, 2016

Astronomer: Dakota Clayton Sky conditions: partly cloudy Wind conditions: Calm Observation Start Time: 9:30 p.m. Observation End Time: 10:10 p.m.

Summary: Attached is the photo of how I received the box. There are three lenses, a filter, a green laser pointer with batteries, and the handcontrol, as well as a small lantern?.

The previous crew did a great job for orientation on Saturday when we had perfectly clear skies.

Last night I went to the observatory to practice, and begin viewing. I had memorized the opening, closing and handcontrol, however, I still consulted the guide to be careful. Last night was cloudy, I however was able to find a clear spot on the northwest side of the observatory. I viewed Eta Cas, practiced with the three lenses, ROBOFOCUS, and handcontrol slew. Today looks excessively cloudy. I am checking to see when the next clear night will be. I will be checking at colder times like 4-5 a.m. to see if there are clearer skies at these times. Eta Cas was the only object from the Astronomical League's double star program that I was able to locate and view. I am checking to see which additional double stars will be viewable during this week.

Problems encountered: Unfortunately, I was only able to be in the observatory for about forty minutes, as the power for the dome and shutter controls were sluggish and I was worried of running out of power before I would be able to close the observatory (I am unsure why the dome control was sluggish, I consistently turned off the dome and shutter controls after using them to prevent power drain. This was an issue that the previous crew encountered, there were times were they were having to come back later to close the observatory, I would rather cut the viewings short to preserve the integrity of the observatory as I know that the sand can damage the equipment inside). I was able to get the observatory completely closed. Everything was covered per the training and quick guides. The dome is closed and faced south per e-mail request.

Objects Viewed: -Eta Cas

Desired viewings: (these were reported as being in the visible sky on stellarium, a simulant star map with which you can check viewable objects based on location and time)

Sirius Rigel Aldebaran Betelgeuse Jupiter Other visible planets as possible Other double stars as possible as per my original PRIF

April 5, 2016

Astronomer: Dakota Clayton Sky conditions: mostly clear Wind conditions: Calm Observation Start Time: 5:00 a.m. Observation End Time: 6:00 a.m.

Summary: This morning I awoke early to try to seize an opportunity at clear skies. Today's skies were much clearer than my previous attempt! I feel as though I have the operation and controls completely mastered at this point. Despite trying all three lenses, the planets I viewed were difficult to make out distinguishing features. I was able to focus them as much as possible, but for example I still could not make out the rings of Saturn. I am hoping that later this week I can get our photographer to come with me so that we can take pictures to share of the skies!

Problems Encountered: Although the skies are clearer this early in the morning, I am racing against the sunrise. I can try to go to the observatory even earlier, but it will cut severely into my rest.

Dome controls are still sluggish and after the entire hour I viewed the sky, the dome was almost not going to close. I waited approximately ten minutes, and I was able to close the dome however, and I'm looking forward to getting up between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. to continue and check for clear skies. I do not anticipate being able to observe for longer than an hour, if the dome shutter controls continue to act as though they are running out of power (this is indicated by decreased motor speed and change in sound). If we are fortunate in getting clear skies before bed time then we will take advantage of that, as more of the crew will be able to participate.

Objects Viewed:

Alioth Mizar Alkaid Mars Saturn?


Dakota Clayton

April 5, 2016

Astronomer: Dakota Clayton Sky conditions: Clear! Wind conditions: Calm Observation Start Time: 8:55 p.m. Observation End Time: 9:30 p.m.


Last night I had the best viewing experience yet, as the culmination of clear sky, and my practice finally paying off allowed me to view several great things. Also, I think I saw ISS pass in front of my scope twice! It went so fast at first I was unsure I saw anything at all. Then it happened again! Sirius was the most beautiful thing. It was so bright, vibrant and looked as though it was dancing while on fire.

I rushed a little so that I could get to bed early and wake up early.

So I awoke at 6:00 so that I could test the batteries for dome control. All I did was open the dome, wait for a little bit then begin closing process. The dome did not close all the way, it stopped responding about half way through closing. I had to wait until much later after the solar panels recharged the battery I did not operate the telescope in the morning, I simply performed this test to help diagnose the issues occurring with the dome operation.

So I noticed that the two solar panels are connected to separate batteries, one for the rotate, and one for the close/open of the dome. I took the engineer out to test the voltage of the batteries after the failed attempt at closing the dome. The battery that rotates the dome tested at 12.7 volts. Which seems to make sense, as the rotation gives me much less trouble, and the standby voltage on the battery says it should read a little over 13 volts. The close/open control for the dome, however showed a reading of 10.03 volts (and should also have read between 13.4-13.8). This is immediately after the occurrence listed above of when the dome failed to close.

Please advise if there is anything I can do to help the low voltage situation with the battery.


Objects Viewed:





International space station (unintentionally)?

April 6, 2016

Astronomer: Dakota Clayton Sky conditions: Clear! Wind conditions: Calm Observation Start Time: 10:30 p.m. Observation End Time: 01:15 a.m.


Last night the sole purpose of viewing was to show the other crew members the objects I have been viewing.

With the help of the photographer we attempted troubleshooting for photographing objects, for a DSLR with T-mount. Despite out best efforts, we were, at this time, unable to figure out how to sufficiently focus the combination of t-mount and camera to photograph anything. Although viewing was great for the naked eye, placing the T-mount and camera on scope caused to come so out of focus that large black circles were in the center of what were otherwise large and bright celestial bodies. I recognized this as completely out of focus from previous viewings. Despite trying the extremes of ROBOFOCUS I was unable to attain focus necessary for successful documentation at this time.

After about an hour and a half, the crew remained viewing with the naked eye for about another hour to see shooting stars, ISS etc.

Objects Viewed:





April 7, 2016

Astronomer: Dakota Clayton Sky conditions: Cloudy Wind conditions: Calm Observation Start Time: 09:00 p.m. Observation End Time: 11:00 p.m.

Summary: I showed Chemist/HSO Amanda Sansom the observatory last night since she was unable to view the previous night. She had a great time and was excited to view through the scope. The night sky was very cloudy so only the brightest objects could be viewed. Photographer Jesse Stanford took pictures of the night sky (without the scope) after it cleared up a little. He was able to do some extended exposures of Jupiter and even captured a picture of one of its moons.

Objects Viewed: Sirius Arcturus Jupiter

Dakota Clayton

April 11, 2016

Astronomer: Otsmar J. Villarroel Sky conditions: partly cloudy Wind conditions: Calm Observation Start Time: 9:23 p.m. Observation End Time: 10:45 p.m.

Summary: The last night exercise was performed with the idea of getting familiar with the use of the telescope and the automatic system. The opening/closing protocols were followed as described in the manual. Two stars alignment as well as four stars calibration was successfully completed. Once the alignment and calibration procedures were concluded, Jupiter was chosen as a target for practicing the use of the three lenses, ROBOFOCUS, and handcontrol.

For tonight it is expected to observe Jupiter to identify some of its moons with the idea of tracking some transits and occultations. The main plan is to track the Jupiter’s Galilean moons over the rest of my stay at the MDRS as well as take some pictures of these events.

Last night during the orientation exercise I tried to observe some bright stars using the handcontrol database, however, it requested a catalog code. Please advise where those codes can be found.

Problems encountered: As described by the Astronomer Dakota Clayton previously the power for the dome and shutter controls were sluggish. I am aware of mission support is already working on it and new batteries are about to arrive soon this week to be replaced. Please advise when those batteries would be here and please instruct if you want us to replace them.

Objects Viewed: Sirius, Capella, Spica, Merak, Alkaid, Arcturus, and Jupiter.

April 12, 2016

Astronomer: Otsmar J. Villarroel Sky conditions: Clear Wind conditions: Calm

Observation Start Time: 9:30 p.m. Observation End Time: 11:30 p.m.

Summary: Last night the crew got informed about the fifty-five years first human exploration of space anniversary and we decided to celebrate it using the telescope. Several celestial bodies were observed. Part of the crew was invited to the observatory to observe them. Please see the list below for more details about the observed objects. It was a beautiful night last night. Everything went as planned except I could not get any image using the crew DSRL camera. I don’t know why I could not focus the objects using the camera attached to a T-mount. Any comment/suggestion will be much appreciated.

Also, can mission support send me a report of the conditions for the next couple of nights? Thanks in advance

Problems encountered: The power for the dome and shutter controls were sluggish. Waiting on mission support for information about the new batteries.

Objects Viewed: Moon, Jupiter and some of its moons, Orion Nebula, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Vega, Polaris, Merak, Spica and Sirius.