“Astronomy is a gateway science.” Green Bank Observatory’s Newest Scientist Brings the Stars to You

Will Armentrout, wearing the white hard hat, with family on the Green Bank Telescope.

In today’s challenging times, we should all celebrate the positive. The Green Bank Observatory welcomes a new member to its scientific team, Dr. Will Armentrout.

Will has been in residence for over a year as a post doc, giving him the chance to embed himself in the heart of Green Bank’s tight knit community, living on site in the historic residence, the “Nut Bin.”

Will seems to have been destined for a career in astronomy. Although he was named after his father, William, he is called “Will” after Will Robinson from Lost in Space. A native of Appalachia and the Rust Belt, he and his siblings are collaborating to restore a century-old property in their hometown, Ford City, Pennsylvania, located 30 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Will received his Bachelor of Science in Physics from Westminster College (PA) and both a masters and PhD in Physics from West Virginia University.

We all look up at the night sky and marvel at the glittering stars that we see – but how did they come to be? This is what Will seeks to answer in his research. He focuses specifically on high-mass star formation regions across our Milky Way Galaxy, to better understand how these large stars are born and what they can tell us about the structure and chemistry of the Galaxy. These stars can be 10 to 100 times larger than our Sun and tens of thousands of times brighter. Will’s work includes the most comprehensive observations of the most distant known molecular spiral arm in the Galaxy, the Outer Scutum-Centaurus Spiral Arm, about 70,000 light years away from the Earth.

The Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, is a fundamental tool for Will’s research. He collaborates frequently with other scientists and academics around the world, and travels to present at workshops and conferences all over the world, including Harvard (MA), Honolulu (HI), and Helsinki (Finland), in recent months. He enjoys representing the Observatory, and is passionate about sharing its resources with the public and scientists alike, through outreach and social media.

“Astronomy is a gateway science,” says Will, “It’s so accessible, you can just look up at the sky and wonder. It might be the first thing that gets someone interested in science. Even if they don’t become an astronomer, they might pursue that curiosity and become an engineer or a physicist or a biologist. There’s so much it can introduce you to.”

Learn more about the Green Bank Observatory’s scientific research and career opportunities.

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The Green Bank Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation and is operated by Associated Universities, Inc.

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Contacts:

Jill Malusky, Public Relations, jmalusky@nrao.edu

Tracy Samples, Human Resources, tsamples@nrao.edu

Will Armentrout, Assistant Scientist, warmentr@nrao.edu