Haystack Observatory

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Haystack Observatory
Organization Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Location Westford, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°37′24″N 71°29′18″W / 42.6233°N 71.4882°W / 42.6233; -71.4882Coordinates: 42°37′24″N 71°29′18″W / 42.6233°N 71.4882°W / 42.6233; -71.4882
Altitude 131 meters (430 ft)
Established 1960 (1960)
MIT Haystack Observatory
Haystack Radio Telescope 37 m dish antenna
Westford Radio Telescope 18.3 m dish antenna

Haystack Observatory is an astronomical observatory owned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is located in Westford, Massachusetts (USA), approximately 45 kilometers (28 mi) northwest of Boston. Haystack was initially built by MIT's Lincoln Laboratory for the United States Air Force and was known as Haystack Microwave Research Facility.[1] Construction began in 1960, and the antenna began operating in 1964. In 1970 the facility was transferred to MIT, which then formed the Northeast Radio Observatory Corporation (NEROC) with a number of other universities to operate the site as the Haystack Observatory. As of January 2012, a total of nine institutions participated in NEROC.[2]

The Haystack Observatory site is also the location of the Millstone Hill Observatory, an atmospheric sciences research center.[3] Lincoln Laboratory continues to use the site, which it calls the Lincoln Space Surveillance Complex (LSSC).[4] The George R. Wallace Astrophysical Observatory of MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences is located south of the Haystack dome and east of the Westford dome.[5] The Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston has its clubhouse on the MIT property.[6]

Haystack Vallis on Mercury is named after this observatory.


  • The 37 m (121 ft) Haystack Radio Telescope is a parabolic antenna protected by a 46 m (151 ft) metal-frame radome. It is known as the Haystack Long-Range Imaging Radar when used for the LSSC.[4] It was constructed for use in space tracking and communication, but now is used primarily for astronomy. It was completed in 1964 and originally observed at 8 GHz on the radio spectrum.[7] Since then it has been upgraded to listen to other frequency bands, though not simultaneously. When used for radar it broadcasts and listens in bands at either 10 GHz or 95 GHz. The main dish was upgraded in 2006, which allowed operation at frequencies up to 150 GHz.[8] The secondary reflector of the Cassegrain design features an active surface.
  • The 18.3 m (60 ft) Westford Radio Telescope was built in 1961 by Lincoln Laboratory for Project West Ford as an X-band radar antenna.[9] It is located approximately 1.2 kilometers (0.75 mi) south of the Haystack telescope along the same access road. The antenna is housed in a 28.4 m (93 ft) radome and has an elevation-azimuth mount. Since 1981, it has been used primarily for geodetic very long baseline interferometry (VLBI).[10] By measuring the location of astronomical radio sources very accurately, geodetic VLBI techniques can be used to measure things such as changes in the axial tilt of the Earth.

Former telescopes[edit]

  • The Deuterium Array was a 25-element radio telescope array optimized to observe at 327 MHz, which is one of the emission lines of deuterium. Each element, or station, was itself a 25-element array of dipoles. The array operated from 2004 to 2006.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "MIT Haystack Observatory: History". MIT Haystack Observatory. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  2. ^ "MIT Haystack Observatory: NEROC". MIT Haystack Observatory. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  3. ^ "MIT Haystack Observatory: Atmospheric Sciences Millstone Hill Observatory". MIT Haystack Observatory. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  4. ^ a b "MIT Lincoln Laboratory: Facilities". MIT Lincoln Laboratory. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  5. ^ "Wallace Astrophysical Observatory". MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  6. ^ "ATMoB Clubhouse". Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  7. ^ Sebring, P. B. (January 1972). "Haystack Observatory, Northeast Radio Observatory Corporation, Westford, Massachusetts. Observatory report covering the period from 1 July 1970 through 30 June 1971". Bulletin of the Astronomical Society 4: 51. Bibcode:1972BAAS....4...51S. 
  8. ^ "MIT Haystack Observatory: Haystack Radio Telescope". MIT Haystack Observatory. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  9. ^ "MIT Haystack Observatory: Westford Radio Telescope". MIT Haystack Observatory. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  10. ^ "Network Station Configuration File". International VLBI Service. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  11. ^ "MIT Haystack Observatory: Deuterium Array". MIT Haystack Observatory. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 

External links[edit]