Special Talk: Flashes in the Sky—The Mystery of Fast Radio Bursts

West Virginia astronomers share the origin of their discovery and hopes for future research

Artist’s impression of a fast radio burst. Image: Paul Vosteen (NSF/AUI/GBO)

Love at First Light

In 1997, I was finishing high school and dating a young lady that was doing an astronomy project using the 40-Foot telescope. She told me one day that she was doing an all-night observation of some source, changing something in the observation every 5-10 minutes — I can’t recall if it was switching polarization, or between source and calibration signals. Since this was before the 40-Foot had any automation, this switching had to be done manually — literally looking at the clock and throwing a toggle on one of the racks at the correct time. Every ten minutes, for several hours. It was going to be boring, tedious, tiring work in the middle of the night.


My Times with the 40 Foot

My times with the 40-foot are selfish ones. I’ve been in the bunker hundreds of times, often with teacher groups and student groups, but also many times alone. Those are some of my most cherished 40-Foot memories. Walking through snow from the dorm to the bunker in the early morning hours, sometimes lit by a beautiful moon, hoping to catch Orion. Bicycling towards the telescope late at night, worried about a collision with deer or skunk. Sitting for hours with that old WWII radio, cranking through the frequencies, looking at the Doppler shifted signals from the spiral arms. Working with Deb Hemler, Peg Romeo, and Aimee Govett as we tried to detect the HI from M31 (and finally, that early morning with Aimee when we tuned the local oscillators just right, set the dials correctly, and watched as the chart recorder showed us the extra-galactic neutral hydrogen). Carl, telling me (incorrectly) that I could treat the Sun as a point source. Sue Ann Heatherly explaining how to set the declination for negative declination. Ron explaining how to find the moon using ‘simple spherical trigonometry’ (then we got Stellarium and we no longer needed trig). Walking out of the bunker, looking up, and seeing the Milky Way.


Earth Is Safe From Asteroid Apophis for 100-Plus Years

Green Bank Telescope Teams Up With NASA’s JPL Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex to Track Asteroid

The near-Earth object was thought to pose a slight risk of impacting Earth in 2068, but now radar observations have ruled that out.

This image is taken from an animation showing the distance between the Apophis asteroid and Earth at the time of the asteroid’s closest approach. The blue dots are the many man-made satellites that orbit our planet, and the pink represents the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Celebrating 20 Years of Innovation & Discovery

As part of our celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the Green Bank Observatory (GBO) is conducting an image contest with cash prizes. Eligible entries include radio images, multiwavelength composite images, animations, data visualizations, 3-D models, and others. All entries must include radio data obtained with the GBT.