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9 July 2018 The Magdalena Ridge Observatory interferometer: first light and deployment of the first telescope on the array
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Abstract
The Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI) has been under development for almost two decades. Initial funding for the facility started before the year 2000 under the Army and then Navy, and continues today through the Air Force Research Laboratory. With a projected total cost of substantially less than $200M, it represents the least expensive way to produce sub-milliarcsecond optical/near-infrared images that the astronomical community could invest in during the modern era, as compared, for instance, to extremely large telescopes or space interferometers. The MROI, when completed, will be comprised of 10 x1.4m diameter telescopes distributed on a Y-shaped array such that it will have access to spatial scales ranging from about 40 milliarcseconds down to less than 0.5 milliarcseconds. While this type of resolution is not unprecedented in the astronomical community, the ability to track fringes on and produce images of complex targets approximately 5 magnitudes fainter than is done today represents a substantial step forward. All this will be accomplished using a variety of approaches detailed in several papers from our team over the years. Together, these two factors, multiple telescopes deployed over very long-baselines coupled with fainter limiting magnitudes, will allow MROI to conduct science on a wide range and statistically meaningful samples of targets. These include pulsating and rapidly rotating stars, mass-loss via accretion and mass-transfer in interacting systems, and the highly-active environments surrounding black holes at the centers of more than 100 external galaxies. This represents a subsample of what is sure to be a tremendous and serendipitous list of science cases as we move ahead into the era of new space telescopes and synoptic surveys. Additional investigations into imaging man-made objects will be undertaken, which are of particular interest to the defense and space-industry communities as more human endeavors are moved into the space environment.

In 2016 the first MROI telescope was delivered and deployed at Magdalena Ridge in the maintenance facility. Having undergone initial check-out and fitting the system with optics and a fast tip-tilt system, we eagerly anticipate installing the telescope enclosure in 2018. The telescope and enclosure will be integrated at the facility and moved to the center of the interferometric array by late summer of 2018 with a demonstration of the performance of an entire beamline from telescope to beam combiner table shortly thereafter. At this point, deploying two more telescopes and demonstrating fringe-tracking, bootstrapping and limiting magnitudes for the facility will prove the full promise of MROI. A complete status update of all subsystems follows in the paper, as well as discussions of potential collaborative initiatives.
Conference Presentation
© (2018) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
M. J. Creech-Eakman, V. D. Romero, I. Payne, C. A. Haniff, D. F. Buscher, J. S. Young, F. Santoro, R. Blasi, C. Dahl, J. Dooley, D. Etscorn, A. Farris, M. Fisher, E. Garcia, C. Gino, B. Jaynes, L. Jencka, P. Johnston, C. Jurgenson, R. Kelly, D. Klinglesmith III, E. R. Ligon, J. Luis, T. M. McCracken, C. McKeen, D. Mortimer, D. Ochoa, A. Olivares, J. Pino, C. Salcido, L. M. Schmidt, E. B. Seneta, X. Sun, and D. Wilson "The Magdalena Ridge Observatory interferometer: first light and deployment of the first telescope on the array", Proc. SPIE 10701, Optical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging VI, 1070106 (9 July 2018); doi: 10.1117/12.2314155; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2314155
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