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Astrophysics Luncheon Seminar

The Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer: Design Details and Progress towards First Light with UT#1
Presented by Michelle Creech-Eakman
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Monday, August 20, 2018
12:00 noon in 169-336

Abstract
The Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI), a 10-telescope optical/near-IR interferometer in central New Mexico, has been conceived to be the most ambitious optical interferometric array under construction to date. With baselines ranging from 7.8 to 347 meters, and limiting magnitudes of 14 at H band, it will be able to assess many thousands of astronomical targets on spatial scales of tens to tenths of milliarcseconds. This is achieved through several careful design choices and trade-offs which should allow the MROI to reach 4-5 magnitudes deeper than similar facilities can achieve today. After over a decade of funding from NRL and the major partner institutions (New Mexico Tech and Cambridge University), new funding was obtained in late 2015 via a Cooperative Agreement between New Mexico Tech and the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) to bring the facility to a three-interferometer system capable of observing geosynchronous satellites. However, we still maintain an exciting and compelling astronomical portfolio which will produce statistical samples of: YSOs and their surrounding disks, systems dominated by mass-loss and mass-transfer, pulsating stars and binary star systems, and images of the environs of AGN in nearby galaxies. An overview of the major design components of this ambitious imaging machine, recent progress, and plans for MROI for the next 3 years under the AFRL Cooperative Agreement will be presented.

JPL Contact: Rob Zellem

About the Speaker
Michelle Creech-Eakman received her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Denver building astronomical instrumentation to study Mira variable stars. Subsequent to this, she held two postdocs at Caltech and JPL working on, among other projects, the Palomar Testbed and Keck Interferometers. In 2003 she left to join the faculty at New Mexico Tech and to serve as Project Scientist on the MRO Interferometer. She has participated in the design and building of several spectrometers and fringe-trackers over the years, as well as secured competitive observing time using spectrometers and optical interferometers on several international facilities. Her main areas of research outside of instrumentation concern stellar astrophysics (YSOs, binary systems and variable stars) and exoplanets, especially as they relate to the stars they orbit.


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