Jun 192018

On Sunday June 10th the SPIE Conference for Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation began in Austin, Texas, and ten employees of the MRO went to participate in presentations of a plethora of fascinating and noteworthy material. MRO Principle Investigator Michelle Creech-Eakman, Ph.D. was an important part of the event as she was one of the conference chairs and she was also a session chair for welcome and announcements, sessions 3, 6, and 15, and the wrap-ups and community discussions. Many employees presented their works either through formal presentation or through their posters where it was easier for them to interact with other interested scientists.


The Magdalena Ridge Observatory interferometer: first light and deployment of the first telescope on the array (Invited Paper)(Paper 10701-5)

Michelle Creech-Eakman, Chris A. Haniff, David F. Buscher, John S. Young, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Ifan Payne, Fernando Santoro, Van D. Romero, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (United States)


In 2016 the first telescope of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MROI) was delivered and deployed at the Ridge in the maintenance facility. With initial check-out complete, we eagerly anticipate receiving the telescope enclosure early in 2018 and placing the integrated telescope and enclosure at the interferometric array by summer of 2018. By late 2020 we plan to demonstrate fringe-tracking, bootstrapping and limiting magnitudes for the facility will prove the full promise of MROI. A complete status update of all subsystems and plans for initial science, development of partnerships, and funding plans to complete the full facility will be presented.

The MROI fringe tracking system: camera hardware modifications to integrate the SAPHIRA detector (Paper 10701-61)

Edgar R. Ligon, Chris D. Salcido, Magdalena Ridge Observatory, David F. Buscher, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Michelle Creech-Eakman, Magdalena Ridge Observatory, Christopher A. Haniff, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Fernando G. Santoro, Magdalena Ridge Observatory, Colby A. Jurgenson, Genesis Engineering Solutions, Inc. (United States); Tyler M. McCracken, Yale Univ. (United States); Luke M. Schmidt, Texas A&M Univ. (United States); John S. Young, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom)


Developments in detector technology have allowed for an alternative to the original choice of infrared array to finally become available – in particular, the SAPHIRA detector made by Selex. Very low read noise and very fast readout rates are significant reasons for adopting these new detectors, traits which also allow relaxation of some of the opto-mechanical requirements that were needed for the PICNIC chip to achieve marginal sensitivity. This (Paper will discuss the opto-mechanical advantages and challenges of using the SAPHIRA detector with the pre-existing hardware.

Initial steps toward a new method of atmospheric characterization over long baseline arrays (Paper 10701-67)

Jonathan Dooley, Magdalena Ridge Observatory, Michelle Creech-Eakman, Magdalena Ridge Observatory (United States)


Initial data for the current and ongoing experiment to measure and possibly predict the horizontal turbulent strength, $C_{N}^{2}$, of the atmosphere above the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI) is presented. $C_{N}^{2}$ is a representation of the atmosphere’s ability to transport scalars and is measured using a set of Kipp \& Zonen Large Aperature Scintillometers (LAS). LAS Calibration data as well as initial test data are presented and analyzed. Correlation techniques are used to determine the optimal method of $C_{N}^{2}$ calculation from the first generation LAS. A 19-day test over the array site was conducted and analyzed using both Fourier and wavelet analysis and filtration. Frequency analysis showed few periodic features due to the quasi-periodic nature of the signal.

Automated alignment system of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory interferometer (Paper 10701-71)

James Luis, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Robert Blasi, Magdalena Ridge Observatory, David F. Buscher, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Allen Farris, Robert Kelly, Robert Ligon, Magdalena Ridge Observatory, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (United States)


We present a preliminary design for the Automated Alignment System for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI), tasked with performing a start-of-night alignment and providing subsequent corrections in between observations. Each of MROI’s ten beam lines will utilise two counter-propagating light sources, a pair of quad cells for monitoring coarse alignment, and a tilt and shear detector for tracking fine drifts. Using a novel application of a Shack-Hartmann array in our laboratory, we have demonstrated that deviations in tilt of 0.5 arcseconds and shears of less than 0.4% of the pupil diameter can be measured, both of which are better than the values demanded by the MROI error budget.

Magdalena Ridge Observatory interferometer: UT#1 site installation, alignment and test (Paper 10701-73)

Christian Bastin, Olivier Pirnay, Vincent Moreau, Carlo Flebus, AMOS Ltd. (Belgium); Andres Olivares, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (United States)


The deployment of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer has resumed in 2016. AMOS, in charge of the development of the unit telescopes, has completed the installation of the first telescope on the Ridge. The compactness of the system allows for a fast installation, as only the optics and their supports need to be transported in separate crates. The installation has been followed by the alignment procedure combining metrological and optical measurement techniques and aiming at optimizing the pupil stability and image quality. Finally, the performance of the telescope has been evaluated on the sky as part of the site acceptance.

Towards integration of the Unit telescope for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory interferometer (Paper 10701-74)

Andres Olivares, Fernando Santoro, Christopher Salcido, Robert Ligon, Chuck Dahl, Perry Johnston, Robert Blasi, Allen Farris, Michelle Creech-Eakman, Ifan Payne, John Young, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Davide Marzotto, EIE Group s.r.l. (Italy); Olivier Pirnay, AMOS Ltd. (Belgium)


The Unit Telescope (UT) for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MROI) is composed of four major hardware components: the Telescope, Enclosure, Optics and the Fast Tip Tilt System (FTTS). Integration of the UT started in 2016 when the Telescope arrived and its Assembly, Integration and Verification activities began. Critical activities included: installation at the Maintenance Facility, integration and alignment of the Optics and Wave Front Sensor (WFS) and finally the Telescope alignment. End-to-end Telescope Site Acceptance Tests (SAT) were performed. Subsequent activities included receiving and integrating the FTTS. With the arrival and assembly of the Enclosure, the last component of the UT was ready for integration on a dedicated concrete pier. Specialized equipment was used for the final integration of the UT, and for transportation to its final location on the array where SAT for the UT took place.

Aperture synthesis imaging of colored GEO objects (Paper 10701-87)

John Young, Christopher Haniff, David Buscher, Tanish Satoor, Matthew Le Maitre, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Michelle Creech-Eakman, Ifan Payne, Magdalena Ridge Observatory (United States)


Interferometry provides the only practicable way to image satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) with sub-meter resolution. The Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI) is being funded by the US Air Force Research Laboratory to deploy the central three unit telescopes in order to demonstrate the sensitivity and baseline-bootstrapping capability needed to observe GEO targets. In parallel, we are investigating the resolution and imaging fidelity that is achievable with larger numbers of telescopes. We present imaging simulations with 7- and 10- telescope deployments of MROI, and characterize the impact of realistic spectral variations compared with a “gray” satellite.

Planet formation imager: project update (Invited Paper) (Paper 10701-27)

John D. Monnier, Univ. of Michigan (United States); Michael Ireland, The Australian National Univ. (Australia); Stefan Kraus, Univ. of Exeter (United Kingdom); Almudena Alonso-Herrero, Ctr. de Astrobiología (Spain); Amy Bonsor, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Fabien Baron, Georgia State Univ. (United States); Amelia Bayo, Univ. de Valparaíso (Chile); Jean-Philippe Berger, Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (France); Tabetha Boyajian, Louisiana State Univ. (United States); Andrea Chiavassa, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (France); David Ciardi, Infrared Processing and Analysis Ctr. (United States); Michelle Creech-Eakman, Willem-Jan de Wit, European Southern Observatory (Chile); Ruobing Dong, The Univ. of Arizona (United States); Gespard Duchêne, Univ. of California, Berkeley (United States); Catherine Espaillat, Boston Univ. (United States); Alexandre Gallenne, European Southern Observatory (Chile); Poshak Gandhi, Univ. of Southampton (United Kingdom); Jean-Francois Gonzalez, Univ. de Lyon (France); Chris Haniff, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Sebastian Hoenig, Univ. of Southampton (United Kingdom); John Ilee, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Andrea Isella, Rice Univ. (United States); Eric Jensen, Swarthmore College (United States); Attila Juhasz, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Stephen Kane, Univ. of California, Riverside (United States); Makoto Kishimoto, Kyoto Sangyo Univ. (Japan); Wilhelm Kley, Eberhard Karls Univ. Tübingen (Germany); Quentin Kral, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Kaitlin Kratter, The Univ. of Arizona (United States); Lucas Labadie, Univ. zu Köln (Germany); Sylvestre Lacour, Observatoire de Paris (France); Greg Laughlin, Yale Univ. (United States); Jean-Baptiste Le Bouquin, Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (France); Ernest Michael, Univ. de Chile (Chile); Farzana Meru, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Rafael Millan-Gabet, GMTO Corp. (United States); Florentin Millour, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (France); Stefano Minardi, Institute of Applied Physics, Friedrich-Schiller-Univ. Jena (Germany); Alessandro Morbidelli, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (France); Chris Mordasini, Univ. Bern (Switzerland); Andreas Morlok, Westfälische Wilhelms-Univ. Münster (Germany); Dave Mozurkewich, Seabrook Engineering (United States); Richard Nelson, Queen Mary Univ. of London (United Kingdom); Johan Olofsson, Univ. de Valparaíso (Chile); Rene Oudmaijer, Univ. of Leeds (United Kingdom); Chris Packham, The Univ. of Texas at San Antonio (United States); Claudia Paladini, Univ. Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium); Olja Panic, Univ. of Leeds (United Kingdom); Romain Petrov, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (France); Benjamin Pope, New York Univ. (United States); Joerg-Uwe Pott, Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (Germany); Luis Henry Quiroga-Nuñez, Leiden Univ. (Netherlands); Cristina Ramos Almeida, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Spain); Sean Raymond, Lab. d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux (France); Zsolt Regaly, Konkoly Observatory (Hungary); Mark Reynolds, Univ. of Michigan (United States); Stephen Ridgway, National Optical Astronomy Observatory (United States); Stephen Rinehart, NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (United States); Michael Smith, Univ. of Kent (United Kingdom); Keivan Stassun, Vanderbilt Univ. (United States); Jean Surdej, Univ. de Liège (Belgium); Theo ten Brummelaar, Georgia State Univ. (United States); Konrad Tristram, European Southern Observatory (Chile); Neal Turner, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States); Peter Tuthill, The Univ. of Sydney (Australia); Gerard T. van Belle, Lowell Observatory (United States); Gautum Vasisht, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States); Gerd Weigelt, Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (Germany); Edward Wishnow, Space Sciences Lab. (United States); Markus Wittkowski, European Southern Observatory (Germany); Sebastian Wolf, Christian-Albrechts-Univ. zu Kiel (Germany); John Young, Univ. of Cambridge (United Kingdom); Ming Zhao, The New York Times Co. (United States); Zhaohuan Zhu, Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas (United States)


The Planet Formation Imager (PFI) is a near- and mid-infrared interferometer project with the driving science goal of imaging directly the key stages of planet formation, including the young proto-planets themselves. Here, we will present an update on the work of the Science Working Group (SWG), including new simulations of dust structures during the assembly phase of planet formation and quantitative detection efficiencies for accreting and non-accreting young exoplanets as a function of mass and age. These limits will be grounded in a new “baseline PFI” design consisting of nine 3m telescopes with a maximum baseline of 1.2km for which we estimate a H-band tracking limit of 14.4, L band point-source sensitivity of 18.5, and 150K surface brightness limit at N band. We will also discuss the state of technology development needed to make PFI more affordable, including progress towards new designs for inexpensive, small FOV, 3m-class telescopes.

May 292018

The Unit Telescope Enclosure(UTE) is coming along, as we are about to top everything with the Dome (part pictured above)! Today pieces of the dome where unpacked and have been moved into position for assembly. We are expecting to have the dome built outside where it will then be placed onto the UTE walls. Following the Dome attachment the Shutter will be added to the UTE. Thus begins the final stages of the building process where electronic components get added, various tubes and wires get connected, and final tests are done. Once Tests on the UTE are completed both the Unit Telescope and the Enclosure are moved to the integration area where there will be some tests and the two parts will be connected in order to get ready for moving. The total Unit will be transported to the array site where the first light will happen.



Assembly of the integration frame. The frame will be attached to the enclosure, and will then function as the support structure for moving the integrated enclosure and telescope.

On Tuesday June 12, 2018 the MRO hosted a small event for the attachment of the dome of the enclosure. Mayor Richard Rumpf was our VIP for the day and got a chance to meet some of the new employees from the MRO and witness the mixture of joy and stress on the employees as we were so excited to see such a major point in the building of the Unit Enclosure.

May 152018

Today officially marks the start of the MROI’s major growth period to a completed and ready Interferometer. Starting today with the touchdown of the first parts of the Unit Telescope Enclosure (UTE) the MRO should be hustling and bustling till the dome is built, telescope is integrated, and everything is connected.

We here at the MROI are excited to have things start to pick up and for the big spike in progress to come. We would like to thank you as supporters and observers for your support and encouragement through the years. If you wish to stay up to date with everything we’re doing just checkout our homepage Monday-Friday as we will work to keep it up to date with all the wonderful things going on.

Additional Media
Dec 012016

Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer to Experience First Light Next Tuesday

The first of ten telescopes that will make up the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI) will experience first light on the evening of Tuesday, November 29th. The MROI First Light event will be streamed live on the Magdalena Ridge Observatory website, www.mro.nmt.edu, starting at 7:30 Mountain Time on Tuesday, November 29th.

The MROI is an optical interferometer with an array of ten 1.4-meter diameter telescopes spread out across the mountaintop in a Y configuration, and the light from all ten telescopes can be combined to observe objects in the sky with incredible resolution.

“Our telescopes are unique,” said Dr. Ifan Payne, the Program Director for Magdalena Ridge Observatory, “they were specially designed for interferometry and together they will create the most powerful optical array on earth.” The degree of detail is strong enough that you could almost make out the face of a person standing on the moon, or, looking from Los Angeles, you could see a dime being held by someone in New York.

The Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI) is currently under development in the Magdalena Mountains, 28 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. The array of 10 telescopes is located on a ridge at an altitude of 10,460 above sea level and is being designed and installed in a collaboration between New Mexico Tech and the University of Cambridge under federal funding administered by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) which is based in Albuquerque, NM.

“We are thrilled that we have been able to come this far with the project,” said Dr. Payne, “It has been a long journey for a complex undertaking to which so many have contributed over the years. All of us, weather permitting of course, will be celebrate First Light as being the most significant mile stone to date on that journey.”

Work on developing the Interferometer began when scientists from the University of Cambridge in the UK joined the team at New Mexico Tech to design the ground breaking, world-class astronomical facility. There are currently three operating optical interferometers in the world, in Arizona, California and Chile, and the MROI will be up to a thousand times more powerful than any of them. In fact, depending on the wavelength, the MROI will be 100 to 200 times more powerful than the Hubble Telescope.

The Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer is funded by a Cooperative Agreement (number FA9453-15-2-0086) with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

Jun 102016

On May 19, 2016, a major milestone was reached at the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI) when the first of ten telescopes was installed at the Observatory, perched at 10,460 feet on the Magdalena Mountains west of Socorro, New Mexico. This telescope will be the centerpiece of an optical ten-telescope array that is designed to view the universe in both optical and infrared wavelengths.

The first 1.4-meter telescope of the MORI in the Telescope Receiving bay.

The first 1.4-meter telescope of the MROI in the Telescope Receiving bay.

The telescope was built by AMOS, an optical systems manufacturer located in Liège, Belgium, and shipped from there to the New Mexico Tech campus where it had been stored, waiting for the completion of the telescope commissioning facility at the Observatory, and also for warmer and drier Spring weather.

On May 17, 2016, the 15-ton telescope had begun the final leg of its journey to the Observatory. It was hoisted onto a 40-ft. trailer which left the warehouse at the New Mexico Tech Energetic Materials Research & Testing Center (EMRTC) at 11:00 am in the morning, traveling through the EMRTC Test Range, and arriving at the US60 highway just after noon. It then took four hours to transport the telescope up the single-track, unpaved 8 miles of Forest Road 235, which climbs over 4,000 feet, to the Observatory on the South Baldy Ridge of the Magdalena Mountains.

Dr. Van Romero, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at New Mexico Tech, and the Principle Investigator of the Interferometer, puts the achievement in perspective: “Moving the first interferometric telescope to the Observatory is a monumental step forward. Up until now we have been working on the mechanical aspects of the observatory. Now we begin the transition into the optical systems.”

Magdalena Ridge Observatory Program Director, Dr. Ifan Payne, praised the work of the project staff. “Many people have worked for many years to get to this point, so it is both an exciting milestone for the project and a testament for the dedication and professional skill of the engineers and scientists involved.”

The telescope was scheduled to be unpacked from its shipping crate, following the arrival of a 120-ton crane, but the poor weather caused delays. Storms reduced visibly at the Observatory to 100 feet and then it began to hail, which developed into a snow storm – in May! It had been planned that the shipping crate would be dismantled outdoors and the crane would then lift the 15 metric-ton telescope into its temporary home in the Telescope Receiving area of the Maintenance Facility, but the long storm and a bad weather forecast forced the decision to end the work and for the scientists and technicians to return down the Forest Road while it was still safe to do so.

Installation of the telescope resumed on May 19, 2016. It was unpacked and lowered onto five special, motion-dampening foundations. The kinematic foundations that the telescope sits on are separated from the building’s foundation by several inches of specially-designed silicone compound. This allows movement of the individual mounting points while ensuring that the telescope remains locked into position relative to other telescopes in the array.

Once the telescope was in position, work started on the long and delicate task of installing the three mirrors which comprise the optical path within the telescope. The primary mirror, which is the largest, is 1.4 meters in diameter.

“Site Acceptance Testing will take six weeks, after which there will be a lengthy commissioning process leading eventually to first light”, explained Dr. Payne.

The Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO) is located on 1,000 acres, on a ridge adjacent to the 10,700-foot South Baldy peak of the Magdalena Mountains in Socorro County, New Mexico (NM). This multi-use research and educational observatory is built and operated by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT), with offices located on the NMT campus in Socorro, NM. The MRO consists of two major facilities: an operational 2.4-meter fast-tracking telescope (MRO 2.4-Meter Telescope), and Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI), an optical array of 10-1.4 meter telescopes that is designed to simulate the resolution, (magnification, or detail) of a single telescope, ranging in size from 7.5 meters to 340 meters in diameter. When complete, the MROI will have 100 to 200 times the resolution of the Hubble telescope at only 2% of the cost of that space telescope.

The mission of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory is to support astronomy research, space situational awareness, and educational outreach.

“As we progress, we will start to collect light which is always a significant step forward,” says Dr. Romero. “We are now one step closer to collecting science data in support of our goals.”

The telescope traveling the 8 miles up Forrest Road 235

The telescope traveling the 8 miles up Forrest Road 235

Hoisting the telescope off the truck and into the Commissioning Hall.

Hoisting the telescope off the truck and into the Commissioning Hall.

Installation of the 1.4-meter diameter primary mirror

Installation of the 1.4-meter diameter primary mirror