Observatory Director, Dr. Eileen Ryan, explains this image, “I’m observing with the telescope from the control room in the observatory building. The image is the telescope as I command it to move to a night sky object (the picture is looking straight down at the primary mirror). The black circle is a positioning display in the software that controls the telescope motion.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Eileen Ryan
To the eyes of astronomical researchers and faculty at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, New Mexico, there’s a world of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) – and occasional Interstellar Objects (ISOs) – between Earth and space. Thanks to the whole-hearted welcome extended to me by Eileen V. Ryan, PhD, Director of the university’s Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO), I broadened my awareness of the study of these natural and human-made bodies. Dr. Bill Ryan, MRO research scientist, joined his wife and collaborator in describing their work with MRO’s 2.4 meter telescope. A responsive team, NMT personnel and guest researchers search for asteroids that could be on a trajectory to collide with Earth and, among other initiatives, observe human-made satellites to determine possible threats. MRO partners with major space agencies tasked with maintaining national security.
|CLICK ON THE IMAGE This gif shows the unique path of the strange object that zoomed through our solar system over the past few months. Object named A/2017 U1 first spotted in data from the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, October 19,2017. “This is the first time in history that we’ve discovered an object that has come from outside our solar system and passed through our solar system,” said physics professor Van Romero, the vice-president for research at New Mexico Tech, on November 2, 2017. He continued, “Right now, the Magdalena Ridge Observatory is taking the lead on this interstellar visitor. Magdalena Ridge Observatory is the flagship telescope for NASA to characterize those objects.” Eileen Ryan added, “The trajectory of the object as it’s leaving our solar system [will] give us the information we really need to discover – where did it come from?”Image credit: NASA_JPL-Caltech|
Dr. Daniel A. Klinglesmith III searching for new objects in his field of view from the Epscorn Observatory, NMT campus.
Photo: Mackenzie Waggaman
Liam Ryan measuring gravity at one of three elevations. Photo courtesy of Dr. Eileen Ryan
I have written this preamble to the work of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory and provided illustrations and a Resources section as guides to further investigation. In closing, I have a message from Dr. Eileen Ryan. I asked her, “What is most important to convey to readers?” She said, “Tell girls and women that careers in science do not require waiting for or giving up their personal fulfillment in love, work and knowledge. When my son Liam was a baby I was scheduled to present a paper at the American Astronomical Society. I, as well as other female scientists with small children, told the conference coordinators that they had to offer child care, and they did!”