Over the next decade, the Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County will see a $20 million investment as part of a search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
The 10-year, $100 million project called Project Breakthrough Listen was announced last year, the Gazette-Mail’s Rick Steelhammer reported. Scientists have been using the Green Bank Telescope since January to search the 200 stars nearest Earth for radio signals bearing clues to the possible presence of other civilizations.
The project is funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, and famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking is also involved.
Researchers will use other telescopes and instruments across the globe. According to Steelhammer’s article: “Project Breakthrough Listen will make use of about 20 percent of the Green Bank Telescope’s observation time during the next 10 years, bringing a total of $20 million to the Green Bank Observatory. In addition to the 100-meter Green Bank Telescope — the world’s largest fully steerable telescope, Breakthrough Listen also makes use of the Parkes Radio Telescope, in Australia, and the Automated Planet Finder, at the Lick Observatory near San Jose.”
Published in The Charleston Gazette. – See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/daily-mail-opinion/20160414/daily-mail-editorial-green-bank-assists-in-search-for-other-life#sthash.oqZbz6Gv.dpuf
Life in Green Bank, West Virginia, is far from ordinary. The small town sits inside a “national radio quiet zone” that houses one of the largest radio telescopes in the world. To ensure that astronomers work without interference, residents cannot use any product that transmits wireless signals within a ten-mile radius of the telescope. In other words: no microwave ovens, no cell phones, and no Wi-Fi. “Just about anything that uses electricity could potentially cause interference to our telescopes,” says Jonah Bauserman, a technician for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
The barrage of noise and distractions that are all but inescapable in most American communities is refreshingly absent in this unassuming hamlet, located in the wooded hills of Pocahontas County, four hours west of Washington, D.C. Here, no cell phones chirp or jingle, and local kids aren’t glued to the glowing screens of their mobile devices. Older residents roll down their car windows to greet each other and leave their front doors unlocked.
But Green Bank, population 143, isn’t a technological backwater. On the contrary, it is the proud home of one of the marvels of the space age: the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, or GBT for short. Towering nearly 500 feet above its wide, green valley, with a dish large enough to cradle a football field, the GBT is the world’s biggest fully steerable radio telescope—and one of the largest movable objects anywhere on land. Locals jokingly refer to it as the Great Big Thing.
The GBT and other radio telescopes enable astronomers to detect and study objects in space that give off little visible light but emit naturally occurring radio waves—objects such as pulsars, gas clouds, and distant galaxies.
The Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope and the world’s largest land-based movable structure. It is part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) site at Green Bank, West Virginia, USA. NRAO is located in the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000 mile zone where all radio transmissions are either limited or banned outright, to help the telescope function properly.
With the growing popularity of radio-array telescopes, the GBT may end up being the last single-dish telescope of its kind built in the world. Motherboard traveled to this remote part of West Virginia to investigate one of the last remaining vestiges of single dish big science and the people who are fighting for it.