Remember the nursery rhyme about Little Jack Horner? More later …
After a stop at the local Jeep dealer to have a brake issue looked at … and repaired (fortunately at no charge), we left Elkins, heading south toward the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (“NRAO”) in Green Bank, WV.
a large area where all radio transmissions are limited to avoid emissions toward the GBT and the Sugar Grove Research Facility, West Virginia. The existence of the telescope within the Radio Quiet Zone allows for the detection of faint scientific signals which otherwise would be eclipsed by man-made signals. The observatory borders the National Forest and is shielded from radio interference by the Allegheny Mountains.
In fact, to even enter the area of the observatory’s property where the telescopes are located,
all electronics, including cell phones and digital cameras, must be turned off prior passing through the gate.
Therefore, all of our photographs of the observatory’s telescopes were taken prior to entering the restricted area.
These quiet zone requirements are so rigid that only certain vehicles are allowed within the operating theater of the telescopes. Such vehicles do include a fleet of 1950-era cars and trucks obtained from the US Navy (as they have no spark plugs) and certain new, low-radio frequency emission hybrid buses (including those used for tours).
When outside radio emissions are identified, one of a fleet of vehicles
is dispatched to investigate, and if originating from within the Radio Quiet-Zone, shut the offending source down.
The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. The telescope honors the name of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd who represented West Virginia and who pushed the funding of the telescope through Congress.
The GBT has an active surface area of 2.3acres (100m x 110m) with 2,209 actuators (a small motor used to adjust the position) for the 2,004 surface panels (each the size of a queen-sized mattress). The panels are made from aluminum to a surface accuracy of better than 0.003 inches. The actuators adjust the panel positions to correct for distortions due to gravity which change as the telescope moves.
Unusual for a radio telescope, the primary reflector is an off-axis segment of a paraboloid. This is the same design used in familiar home satellite television dishes: the asymmetric reflector allows the telescope’s focal point and feed horn to be located at the side of the dish, so that it and its retractable support boom do not obstruct the incoming radio waves, as occurs in conventional radio telescope designs with feed located on the telescope’s beam axis.
The GBT is designed to handle a wide range of wave-lengths from 3-meter to 3-milimeter and operational frequencies range from 290 MHz to 100 GHz.
Its height is 485 feet (60% taller than the Statue of Liberty) and weighs 17 million pounds. Yet, despite its size and weight, the GBT can be pointed with an accuracy of one arcsecond (equivalent to thickness of a human hair as seen from 66 feet away).
The GBT operates 24 hours a day in all-weather collecting radio waves across the universe. Because the GBT is fully steerable, and 85% of the entire celestial sphere is accessible. Its operation is highly efficient, and it is used for astronomy about 6500 hours every year, with 2000–3000 hours per year going to high frequency science. Part of the scientific strength of the GBT is its flexibility and ease of use, allowing for rapid response to new scientific ideas. I t is scheduled dynamically to match project needs to the available weather. The GBT is also readily reconfigured with new and experimental hardware, adopting the best technology for any scientific pursuit.
The high sensitivity mapping capability of the GBT makes it a necessary complement to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, the Expanded Very Large Array, the Very Long Baseline Array, and other high angular resolution interferometers. Facilities of the Green Bank Observatory are also used for other scientific research, for many programs in education and public outreach, and for training students and teachers.
There are a number of other operating radio telescopes at the observatory. These include:
85-1 Tatel Telescope
The NRAO also had an excellent, hands-on museum explaining the nature of radio astronomy its history and some of its discoveries … both inside
One of the most perplexing and intriguing questions … Are we alone and, if so, what are the chances of discovering another civilization in the universe??
Using Drake’s Equation
N = R x f(p) x R(e) x f(i) x f(i) x f(c) x L
N = the number of communicating civilizations
R = the rate of star birth (estimated: 10 per year)
F(p) = the fraction of those stars with planets around them
N(e) = the number of planets per solar system with an environment suitable for life (estimated: 1 or 2)
F(i) = the fraction of those planets where life has evolved where intelligence appears (estimated: 1%)
F(c) = the percentage of those civilizations will develop technologies to communicate and will use it (estimated: 50%)
L = How long will an intelligent civilization last (estimated: 100 , the time people of earth have been communicating)
Therefore: N = 10 x .5 x 1 x .02 x 1 x .05 x 100 = 50 – The best guess as to the number of communicating civilizations … and if a communicating civilization lasts for a million years, there may be millions of undiscovered civilizations
and on its grounds.
The Jansky Antenna
The Reber Telescope
Ewen – Purcell Antenna
Relative Distances of the Planets from One Another
When thinking about cranberries, Massachusetts probably comes to mind (they’re #2 behind Wisconsin and ahead of New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. But, West Virginia?
As are several unique flowers and other types of berries.
We then opted to drive the Highland Scenic Highway enroute back to our campground. In clear weather, the road which climbs to 4,545 feet can afford spectacular views … and likely gorgeous when the foliage is in full bloom later this month. However, as our elevation increased, all we saw were the approaching cloud bases which got closer and closer
until we were surrounded by a light fog.
Finally descending back into the valley, the drive back to our campground wound along treed hillsides
Then, there are the relics of bygone days which you can’t miss.
I almost forgot … Little Jack Horner who, wew all know, sat in a corner. Betcha, you’ve wondered just where that corner was. Well, we found it!