MRO History and Basic Data

The Manastash Ridge Observatory (MRO) is located approximately 9 miles West-Southwest of Ellensburg, WA. The observatory is at an altitude of 3930' (1198 m), a longitude of 120.7278 degrees West, and a latitude of +46.9528 degrees.

MRO is operated by the Astronomy Department of the University of Washington for the training of graduate and undergraduate students as well as for astronomical research. Some support for the observatory is also given by Central Washington University which is located in Ellensburg. Outside views of the observatory taken from the North, East, and West are shown here.

The observatory houses a computer controlled 30" Boller and Chivens telescope with high quality Ritchey-Chretian type optics. Here is an alternate view of the telescope from the west. Instrumentation at the observatory includes focal reducing optics which give the telescope an unusually wide field of view for a telescope of this size (~9 arcminutes), several sets of standard filters for astronomical photometry, and a state-of-the-art Marconi 1024 x 1024 pixel Charged Coupled Device (CCD) in a Thermo-Electrically cooled camera housing which allows observers to take low-light images of astronomical objects. The telescope tracking and pointing is under computer control and a rotating filter slide capable of holding 7 50mm square filters at a time is available to aid users in CCD photometry.

Undergraduate students from the University of Washington are the primary users of the observatory. Two UW students are shown here at the controls of the telescope during a typical night. Students who use the observatory must learn the basics of astronomical observing as well as the care and operation of the instrumentation.

The observatory was built in 1972 at the initiative of George Wallerstein, a professor of Astronomy at the UW. Its construction was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation as well as by funds from the state of Washington. The location of the site was carefully chosen to allow Seattle students reasonable access to dry and dark sky conditions which are available on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. Owing to its remote location, the observatory includes a kitchen, a living room, three bedrooms, and two bath rooms on-site which allow students and faculty the opportunity for multiple-night observing programs with a minimum of travel. The observatory is normally open between the months of April and November with August and September being the busiest and most productive months of observation. Snowfall usually closes the road to the facility during the winter months.

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