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).

Beam Combining Area (BCA) – Vibration-isolated and thermally regulated space that houses the sensitive instruments which combine the light from the individual telescopes to resolve an image of an astronomical target (see MROI).

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

BLM – Bureau of Land Management.

Broad Emission Line Region (BELR) – 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 observations with an interferometer (see MROI).

Dust – Condensed gaseous material in space.

Electromagnetic Radiation (EM) – 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 object 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).

MROMagdalena Ridge Observatory – comprised of the MRO 2.4-meter Telescope, 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).

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology ( New Mexico Tech, NMT) – Among the top 1,000 universities and colleges, ranked New Mexico Tech #9 for Return on your College Investment in 2017.

NRAO – National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

NRLNaval Research Laboratory.

ONROffice of Naval Research.

Optical – Electromagnetic radiation in the visible spectrum (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 man made object used to gather electromagnetic radiation from celestial objects (more).

Terrestrial – Relating to or originating on the Earth.

USFSUS Forest Service.

UT – Unit telescope (see MROI).

Webcam – A camera connected to a computer, typically to monitor or take periodic pictures of something.

µm – Referring to a unit called the micron, one one-millionth of a meter (1×10−6 m), which is the unit by which optical and infrared radiation is measured.