About MRO

Manastash Ridge Observatory (MRO) is located south of Ellensburg, Washington, and managed by the University of Washington Department of Astronomy. It is primarily used to train undergraduate students in the art of astronomical observing, as well as for research projects. Owing to its remote location, the observatory was built with it's own water supply and accommodations sufficient for groups of students to stay for multiple night observing runs. Over the years many people have learned to observe at MRO, their stories were collected for MRO's 40th Anniversary.

The observatory was built in 1972 at the initiative of George Wallerstein, the first chair of the UW Astronomy Department. 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 UW students reasonable access to the dry and dark skies available on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. 

View into MRO's dome at twilight

The observatory houses a 30" Boller and Chivens telescope with high quality Ritchey-Chretian type optics. A focal reducer creates an unusually wide field of view for a telescope of this size. Originally observers used photographic plates to record their images, but for most of its history MRO has relied on digital cameras. Our current instrumentation includes:

  • An Andor Charged Coupled Device (CCD) thermo-electrically cooled camera.
  • A filter wheel (designed and built by UW students) with Sloan, Johnson-Cousins, H-alpha, BG40 (wide band), and other filters available.
  • A backend for the telescope to mount for this equipment (also designed and built by UW students), and soon a guide camera.
  • The current instrumentation was designed and integrated with the telescope by the Astronomy Undergraduate Engineering Group, thanks in part to funding from the UW Student Technology Fee1. Along with funding from the UW Campus Sustainability Fund2, this work will help ensure MRO is productive for years to come.

    1. Manastash Ridge Observatory Imaging Camera Upgrade
    2. Conservation and Sustainability at Manastash Ridge Observatory: Planning For the Next Forty Years