At The Top Of The World
The Magdalena Ridge Observatory is located atop a towering mountain overlooking the San Agustin Plains of New Mexico. Though the point of the observatory is to look up and not down, with otherworldly views that stretch to the horizon (beyond there be dragons...), the trip is worth while just for the sights alone.
Speaking of the trip, this journey is not for the faint of heart. The Magdalena Ridge Observatory is not open to the public so the only time that nosy photographers like myself can visit is when they host their open house events. See their website for more information about when these events are scheduled. Attendees of the open house event are instructed to park at a camp site at the bottom of the mountain. From there we all load into a shuttle bus and begin the 30 minute, 10 mile journey up the super steep one lane dirt road with no guardrail. There is literally not room for two cars to pass each other going opposite directions on this road which is part of why they don't want visitors coming and going at random intervals. As a passenger on the shuttle, it is safe to assume that the driver doesn't want to die in such a horrific manner as driving a bus off a cliff, so if you stay calm and busy eyes with your Twitter feed, all will be well and you'll be there in a jiffy.
A Weather Station
In 1980 Congress designated 31,000 acres across the Magdalena Mountains in the Cibola National Forest as the Langmuir Research Site. It's primary purpose was studying weather patterns and natural phenomena such as lightning. Pictured below are a building for studying lightning and a hanger for a weather balloon. Both buildings are no longer in use. Behind the balloon hanger was a much older looking silver domed building like that of a telescope but no one seemed to know what was in there or what it was for or maybe that's where they keep all the top secret stuff.
MRO Interferometer (MROI)
Interferometry is a technique used by astronomers to obtain the resolution of a large telescope by using multiple smaller telescopes. The electromagnetic radiation collected at each of the smaller telescopes is combined to recreate the image that would have been obtained with a large telescope. This process is commonly referred to as aperture synthesis. At present, the Magdalena Ridge Observatory only has one Interferometer (pictured below) but in the near future more will be coming so they can set up their array. The goal of this project is to produce images of astronomical targets at resolutions over 100 times that of the Hubble Space Telescope.
The most interactive part of the open house is the tour of the 2.4 meter telescope. This telescope scans the skies looking for anything that may be a threat to the earth, like asteroids that could be on a collision course; or present a threat to national security like satellite remote sensing, space surveillance, and missile tracking.
During this part of the tour, guests are able to go up inside the dome and see the telescope up close. You can even have your photo taken in the telescope if you like. One of the special features of the 2.4 meter telescope is it's rapid tracking capability of 10 degrees per second. Being able to move at a high speed allows the telescope to track things such as fast-moving asteroids, comets, and resident space objects in low-Earth orbits. To facilitate the rapid movement of the telescope, the dome also has to open and rotate rapidly. The tour of the 2.4 meter telescope culminates in an excellent demonstration of the rotating dome. Everyone gathers around the telescope and the operators rotate the dome. This creates a crazy optical illusion where it looks and feels like the floor you're standing on is turning instead of the dome. It's a very convincing illusion.
These images were shot on November 9, 2019 with a Canon Powershot Elph 360 and edited with Fotor.
I am DeAnna Vincent, fine art and portrait photographer in Los Lunas, New Mexico. These are the photos from my everyday adventures.