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Monday, May 27, 2024

LTO Star Night, March 2015


Friday, 18 March 2016 from 7:00 – 11:00 PM

Public Star Night at the Little Thompson Observatory

850 Spartan Ave at Berthoud High School
park east of the high school; directions are posted on the website 

The speaker will be Brian Enke from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder and the title of his talk will be “Where will NASA build its first research facility on Mars?”

Since 2006, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) mission has dazzled planetary scientists with stunning visual imagery of Mars at resolutions up to 25 cm/pixel. Likewise, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) spectrometer on MRO has detected basic mineralogy of various regions at lower resolutions of around 18m/pixel. These instruments and others, including several on surface rovers, allow us to construct detailed maps of various Regions of Interest (ROI), thereby transforming these murky areas of Mars into ‘real places’ where astronauts could someday live. This talk will focus on the results from a recent NASA workshop to identify the most promising regions on Mars to send human explorers. Researchers presented 45 regions exceeding known minimum requirements for long-term human habitability and scientific potential. As they discussed each site in detail, better criteria for selecting habitation sites emerged, sharper in focus than ever before. We now know what short-term data, instruments, and missions will open the second most Earth-like planet in our solar system to human exploration and settlement.


map-of-proposed-exploration-zones 1200p

Brian Enke is a Senior Space Research Analyst at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, where he processes images, runs simulations, and analyzes data for various space missions including the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Rosetta mission to comet 67P/C-G. His studies have touched every planet and major moon in the solar system. As a science fiction author and long-time consultant to groups like The Mars Society, 4Frontiers, and MarsOne, Brian constantly seeks innovative ways to ‘open space to everyone.’ Brian has also mentored a high school robotics team in Nederland for 12 years, and he has directed several Berthoud High School interns in senior STEM projects over the past three years.

Weather permitting, after the presentation, visitors will be invited to look through the large telescope at various celestial objects.  Public star nights are held the third Friday of each month (except July, when the LTO is closed for annual maintenance). No reservations are necessary for these nights. Just come and join in for the talk and some observing afterwards.

If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793 or check the LTO web site at:


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