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,, 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).