Thirty Years on the 40-Foot Telescope

In the midst of celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Observatory at Green Bank, it’s easy to overlook another anniversary. July, 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of educational programs at the Green Bank Observatory. In July 1987, the Green Bank facility opened its doors to 27 teachers in an experimental two-week summer institute, designed to introduce educators to a national research center. I was one of them.


2019 PING Applications are now live

If you are an 8th grader who is interested in science, math and/or engineering, we invite you to apply to come to PING Camp, this summer at the Green Bank Observatory. A challenging, fun week awaits you as you learn how to use radio telescopes to investigate the Universe!  More information about the program can be found here.

Green Bank Telescope Aids in Finding Lost Spacecraft

image of the moon showing location of spacecraft. GBT received radar signal as an inset.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Finding a tiny lost space-craft at a distance of 270,000 miles away may seem impossible, but NASA scientists have done just that. Using a new radar technique, they have located India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft which has been lost since August 2009, the last time any communication was received from it. Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to the moon, is a very small cube about five feet (1.5 meters) on each side — about half the size of a smart car. JPL scientists used NASA’s 70-meter (230-foot) antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California to send out a powerful beam of microwaves directed toward the moon. Then the radar echoes bounced back from lunar orbit were received by the 100-meter (330-foot) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

According to the NASA press release, the successful rediscovering of Chandrayaan-1 provides the start for a unique new capability. Ground-based radars using large antennas including the GBT could be used as a collisional hazard assessment tool and as a safety mechanism for spacecraft that encounter navigation or communication issues, in future robotic and human missions to the moon.

Read the full press release here.

Now taking applications for the Research Experience for Teachers Program

What are you doing over the summer break? Would you like to learn more about cutting edge engineering applications and bring back a hands-on engineering project for your students to experiment with? West Virginia University leads a collaboration with the Observatory to offer a six-week summer research program to 10 high school teachers each summer, called Digital Signal Processing in Radio Astronomy (DSPIRA). DSPIRA is funded through a grant from the Engineering Division of the National Science Foundation. Teachers will learn how to use a cheap, versatile and rapidly developing technology called software defined radio, which can be developed for astronomy applications as well as receiving signals from satellites like NOAA weather satellites!

More information as well as the application link can be found in our RET flyer: RET DISPIRA Flyer

“…comet swarm, cloud of debris, or alien construction site”- Tabby’s Star Scrutinized by Green Bank Telescope

A fascinating article recently published by Astronomy Magazine, describes observations made using the Green Bank Telescope of a very quirky star known as Tabby’s Star (named after Tabetha Boyajian, the post-doc who studied its behavior).  Tabby’s star dims  substantially, at irregular intervals, setting it apart from other stars that harbor exoplanets.  What could account for these irregular dips in the star’s light? There are several ideas and they are all interesting.  But perhaps the most interesting of all is that the dimming is due to a massive array of solar energy-collecting structures in orbit around the star itself.

Want to know more?  Read the article on Astronomy Magazine’s website.