ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT) has taken a step closer to space exploration thanks to the Air Force Research Laboratory. The university is receiving $ 6.2 million to complete the first phase of its $ 30 million five-year project for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer.
“When completed, the project will improve the detection and characterization of objects in geosynchronous Earth orbit and beyond,” said Van Romero, vice president of research and professor of physics at NMT, in a press release. “It will enable astronomers to assess the condition and orientation of man-made objects and study star spots, emerging planets around young stars, and accretion disk physics around supermassive black holes.”
The money will allow New Mexico Tech to build three telescopes and two scientific instruments in Socorro. The grant will also support a team of more than 40 scientists, engineers, students and volunteers.
According to the Air Force Research Lab press release, the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer will be one of the largest earth-based optical telescopes, made up of collecting mirrors that work together to produce images with resolutions as opposed to that of a single telescope of more than three soccer fields. The press release states that the observatory is expected to be completed in 2026.
The press release said that NMT expects the facility to be open to public tours and K-12 school programs, and will encourage collaboration with universities.