Astrophysics Group

Cavendish Laboratory

Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer

Magdalena Ridge Observatory

The Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO) project is a collaboration between New Mexico Tech (NMT), the University of Cambridge, and an observatory consortium which includes New Mexico State University (NMSU), New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU), the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Magdalena Ridge Observatory project is overseen by the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The observatory will comprise two facilities, a single 2.4 meter telescope and an optical/infrared telescope array, the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI).

MRO Interferometer

Schematic of MROI showing ten telescopes in a close-packed configuration. The shortest baseline in this configuration is 7.5m. Light collected by the telescopes is transported in evacuated beam relay pipes to the Beam Combining Facility building, where the paths travelled by the light from different telescopes are equalised by the delay lines (in the pipes shown top right), before the light beams are interfered on optical tables in the Beam Combining Area.

Schematic of MROI showing ten telescopes in a close-packed configuration. The shortest baseline in this configuration is 7.5m. Light collected by the telescopes is transported in evacuated beam relay pipes to the Beam Combining Facility building, where the paths travelled by the light from different telescopes are equalised by the delay lines (in the pipes shown top right), before the light beams are interfered on optical tables in the Beam Combining Area.

MROI will, in its initial phase, consist of six 1.4m diameter telescopes. The telescopes will be moveable between sets of discrete foundations, allowing baselines (inter-telescope spacings) between 7.5m and 340m in length. The longest baseline will give an angular resolution of 0.6 milli-arcsecond at 1 micron wavelength, more than a factor 100 better than that possible with the Hubble Space Telescope.

The MROI design is strictly optimised for imaging of faint (magnitude 14 in the near-infrared H band) targets. Thus observations with MROI will address a broad range of topical problems in astrophysics, notably:

  • Characterisation of dust torii and verification of the unified model for Active Galactic Nuclei
  • Investigating accretion processes in young stellar objects; detection of the signatures of planet formation
  • Understanding pulsation, convection, and the onset of mass loss in evolved stars
  • Studying ejecta from interacting binary stars

MROI is described in the following publications:

The current status of MROI is described on the MRO website.

A visual introduction to MROI is available.

Cavendish Involvement

The optical interferometry team at the Cavendish Laboratory are leading the system design for MROI. We have also designed the long-stroke vacuum delay lines and manufactured the first delay line trolley, and are currently developing and testing the MROI fast tip-tilt correction systems.