Glossary & Acronyms


active galactic nucleus (AGN) – a large black hole at the center of a galaxy outside the Milky Way;  more

adaptive optics – optics attached to a telescope to correct aberrations introduced by the Earth’s atmosphere.  Typically space-telescopes do not need adaptive optics; more

array –  a group of telescopes being used together as a single “telescopic instrument”

asteroid – a large rock (which may also include metal) in space, typically in orbit around the Sun; more

Be star – a hot star, typically with a disk of material around it; more

BCA - beam combining area: see MROI

Beam Combining Facility (BCF) – a building in the interferometer where the light from the telescopes is combined

BELR – broad emission line region

BLM – Bureau of Land Management

broad emission line region – a region around an AGN with broad spectral emission lines characteristic of high speed winds and luminous material being ejected from the AGN

brown dwarf – a “failed star” that is unable to undergo hydrogen burning due to low mass; more

cataclysmic variable (CV) – a binary star system made up of a white dwarf and evolved star which undergoes periodic mass transfer from the evolved star to the white dwarf, resulting in periodic brightening of the binary system; more

Cepheid – an intrinsically variable star undergoing very regular pulsations, often referred to as a standard candle in astronomy because there is a known relationship between the period of pulsations and the intrinsic brightness of the star; more

comet – an icy and gaseous body traveling periodically (or sometimes not) through the solar system from the Oort cloud; more

delay lines (DL) – assemblies of optics moved very precisely to help correct for the position of the star in the sky and the rotation of the Earth during the observations with an interferometer; see MROI

dust – condensed gaseous material in space

EM – electromagnetic (radiation), referring to the spectrum of all radiation measured by telescopes (see electromagnetic radiation)

Hertzsprung-Russell diagram – a plot of temperature (or color) versus intrinsic brightness of the stars in the galaxy.  Astronomers use it to discuss types of stars and study the evolution of stars; more

hydrogen burning – referring to fusion of hydrogen into helium; astronomers often refer to burning when they mean fusion (see stellar nucleosynthesis)

interferometer – a telescope made up of multiple smaller telescopes, the electromagnetic radiation from which is combined to create an image that would only be possible with a telescope of a much larger aperture (see astronomical interferometer)

magnitude – how bright a celestial objects appears to be from the Earth on a logarithmic scale; it can be related back to how many photons are collected from the object; more

milliarcsecond – A unit of angle equal to one thousandth of an arcsecond (used especially in astronomy); more

MRO – Magdalena Ridge Observatory – comprised of the MRO 2.4-meter Telescope and the MROI and associated facilities on Magdalena Ridge.

MROIMagdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer

near-infrared – electromagnetic radiation slightly longer than the red end of the optical (visible) portion of the spectrum

NESSI - New Mexico Tech Extrasolar Spectroscopic Survey Instrument; see NESSI website.

NMTNew Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (aka New Mexico Tech)

NRLNaval Research Laboratory

NRAONational Radio Astronomy Observatory

ONROffice of Naval Research

optical – electromagnetic radiation in the visible (what the human eye is sensitive to) (see electromagnetic radiation)

Principal Investigator – the lead scientist on a scientific project

protostar – an assembly of self-gravitating gas and dust in space that is not yet condensed and hot enough to undergo hydrogen fusion; more

radiation – electromagnetic  energy which travels like a wave and is composed of both an electric and magnetic field which propagate together (see electromagnetic radiation)

remote sensing – a method to obtain information about a distant object without making physical contact, usually through measurements of electromagnetic radiation; more

star party – a nighttime gathering to look at and learn about celestial objects

telescope – a manmade object used to gather electromagnetic radiation from celestial objects; more

terrestrial – relating to or originating on the Earth

um – referring to a unit called the micron, one one-millionth of a meter, which is the unit by which optical and infrared radiation is measured

USFSUS Forest Service

UT - unit telescope; see MROI

webcam – a camera connected to a computer, typically to monitor or take periodic pictures of something