About MRO

Manastash Ridge Observatory (MRO) is managed by the University of Washington Department of Astronomy, and is located on a ridge above Ellensburg, 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. Owing to its remote location, the observatory was built with its own water supply and accommodations sufficient for groups of students to stay for multiple night observing runs.

Underneath an Ash Dome sits a 30" Boller and Chivens telescope. They would look familiar to anyone who has used MRO since it was dedicated in 1972, but many other things have changed since then. Originally observers used photographic plates to record their images, but now we rely on computers and digital CCD cameras. You can read the history, and some of the best stories, on the MRO 40th Anniversary page.

Today we work to involve UW Astronomy undergraduates in all operations of the facility.

Our current instrumentation includes:

    • An Andor thermo-electrically cooled CCD camera.

    • A filter wheel (designed and built by UW students) with Sloan, Johnson-Cousins, H-alpha, and other filters available.

    • UW students also designed and built a new backend for the telescope which provides a mount for this equipment.

The observatory was built in 1971 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 current instrumentation was designed and continues to be 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. Central Washington University generously provides us with internet access via a microwave link.

1. Manastash Ridge Observatory Imaging Camera Upgrade

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