Pictorial: A Visit to the Greenbank Observatory

The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in Green Bank, West Virginia, US is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope,  surpassing the Effelsberg 100-m Radio Telescope in Germany. Photos by Rebecca Pickens Clise
The telescope sits near the heart of the United States National Radio Quiet Zone, a unique area located in the town of Green Bank, West Virginia, where authorities limit all radio transmissions to avoid emissions toward the GBT and the Sugar Grove Station. The location of the telescope within the Radio Quiet Zone allows for the detection of faint radio-frequency signals which man-made signals might otherwise mask. The observatory borders National Forest land, and the Allegheny Mountains shield it from some radio interference.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory was dedicated of NRAO, 17 October 1957.

The Greenbank Observatory, according to a press release from West Virginia University, through WVU researchers are part of a team that was recently awarded $17 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the renewal of the NANOGrav Physics Frontiers Center (PFC).

West Virginia University researchers Dr. Maura McLaughlin and Dr. Sarah Burke-Spolaor, both faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, will direct WVU’s $3.9 million share of the award.

McLaughlin will also continue to serve as the NANOGrav PFC’s Co-Director in a new era of scientific discoveries, including a recently released data set that may indicate the first hints of the long sought-after gravitational wave background from supermassive black hole binaries.

The scientific work performed at Green Bank Observatory limits the use of electronic devices onsite, including digital cameras and smartphones. Film and photography created by the general public is encouraged and welcome in public areas including the Science Center, outdoor area surrounding the Science Center, and the telescope observation deck. Please be aware of warnings and signs directing you to turn off (or leave electronic devices in your vehicle) in all other areas on site. If you are participating in an educational program during your visit, Green Bank Observatory staff will direct you where photography is safe and permitted. During your visit, your image may be recorded by Green Bank Observatory staff for educational or promotional purposes for the Green Bank Observatory. Photography/video will be of group activities only and not focused on individuals to protect identity and privacy. If you have any concerns, please alert a staff member.
Horn Antenna
History of the horn antenna.

The GBT’s location has been the site of important radio astronomy telescopes since 1957. It currently houses seven additional telescopes, and in spite of its somewhat remote location, receives about 40,000 visitors each year.

Science at work. Check out the description in the photo below.

In response to the health concerns posed by COVID-19, the Green Bank Observatory has made changes to its public programs and events. Learn more about how to access the Science Center, bus tours, and other guided programs here. Tour tickets are required to enter the Science Center. These can be purchased at our online store. At this time, occupancy to the Science Center, cafe, and gift shop is limited to ensure safety. Purchase your ticket online before you visit to ensure your reservation.

A healthy workforce requires a healthy community in which to live and work. With this in mind, the Observatory strives to be an active member of the local community, providing expertise and aid in many areas.

The Green Bank site has tight links to the local community, the region and the State. In addition to the mentorship experiences offered to local secondary school students, the site staff has significant outreach into the community.  Staff members often teach STEM classes in the locals schools, mentor science and math students, serve as science fair mentors and judges to the county and are on county and state educational committees and boards. Site facilities are used for community meetings and by organizations such as the National Forest Service, and are a vital part of the county emergency services plan.


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