NASA Highlights NMT Observatory Friday on Asteroid Day

NASA Highlights NMT Observatory Friday on Asteroid Day

SOCORRO, N.M. – NASA’s special events for Asteroid Day will highlight New Mexico Tech’s Dr. Eileen Ryan and the work of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory 2.4 meter telescope.

Ryan is the director of the telescope, which regularly works with NASA to identify and characterize potentially hazardous asteroids. She will be featured for a five-minute segment on Asteroid Day, which is Friday, June 30.

  ryan-eileen working2

Dr. Eileen Ryan will be featured during NASA's special broadcast on Asteroid Day, Friday, June 30.


NASA is hosting a live one-hour broadcast at 10 a.m. (mountain time) June 30 on the NASA channel. Ryan will discuss the asteroid characterization (identifying asteroid spin rates and composition) work being done at the Magdalena Ridge Observatory for the past 10 years using the 2.4-meter telescope. The live event can be viewed at https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/ustream.html.

Asteroid Day is a global awareness campaign where people from around the world come together to learn about asteroids, the impact hazard they may pose, and what we can do to protect our planet, families, communities, and future generations from future asteroid impacts. Asteroid Day is held each year on the anniversary of the largest impact in recent history, the 1908 Tunguska event in Siberia.


The Magdalena Ridge Observatory 2.4-meter telescope has been tracking asteroids for more than a decade.


The MRO 2.4-meter instrument uses a mirror originally built for the Hubble Space Telescope. The facility has many special capabilities and instruments that make it a featured player in NASA’s study of near-Earth objects.

“We are really happy about getting a chance to participate in Asteroid Day,” Ryan said.  We are pleased we got a shout-out. We’ve enjoyed steady funding from NASA Space Guard and we’re excited to get this opportunity to highlight the work we’ve done over the past decade.”

Among the MRO’s research highlights is the 2015 pass of an asteroid that passed through the orbit of geosynchronous satellites. Ryan and her colleague and husband, Bill Ryan, tracked that asteroid and were the first to characterize its composition, size and spin rate.

In 2011, the Ryans used the MRO to discover the fastest rotating asteroid ever measured.

“That was exciting for us to find the object that rotates that quickly,” Eileen Ryan said. “When we determine how fast it’s spinning, we can infer the strength of that object. If we were mounting a mitigation campaign and needed to push it out of the way of Earth, we’d need to know what it’s made of and how strong it is.”

Ryan said the MRO is especially unique because the instrument can rotate faster than most and can handle multiple instruments. The telescope was designed to be able to track missiles, satellites, and rockets, therefore, it was built to be able to track fast-moving objects.

– NMT –