GBO Science Newsletter – #AAS242 Edition

GBO @ #AAS242

Find out everything there is to know about GBO at AAS 242! See a list of our latest publications, a digital swag bag, and more. Don’t forget to visit our booth in the exhibit hall!

Greetings From the Director

GBO Director Jim Jackson

Although the Green Bank Telescope usually produces cutting edge science as a stand-alone single dish telescope, it can also do so by working in tandem with other facilities. Two recent science highlights, one in radar and one in very long baseline interferometry, demonstrate the key role the GBT plays as part of larger systems. First, by receiving the radar signals transmitted by the JPL Goldstone antenna, the GBT confirmed the success of NASA’s DART mission in changing the course of an asteroid by striking it with a spacecraft. The radar data conclusively demonstrated that post-impact, the orbital period of the smaller asteroid Dimorphos around the larger asteroid Didymos has changed from 11 hours 55 minutes to 11 hours 23 minutes. This GBT result was the first confirmation of the deflection of any asteroid, before the later verification by data from optical telescopes. It is reassuring to know that NASA can strike and deflect moving asteroids. We may well need this capability someday when the stakes are much higher.  

The green circle shows the location of the Dimorphos asteroid, which orbits the larger asteroid, Didymos, seen here as the bright line across the middle of the images. The images show the Didymos and Dimorphos binary asteroid system obtained from radar facilities at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Goldstone planetary radar in California and the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia. Shown at left are Oct. 4, 2022, observations from Goldstone observations; at right are combined Goldstone and Green Bank observations from Oct. 9, 2022.
Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/JPL/NASA JPL Goldstone Planetary Radar/National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Observatory

Second, the GBT participated in Global 3 mm VLBI Array (GMVA) observations to image the black hole and jet in M87, famous as the first black hole image produced at 1 mm by the Event Horizon Telescope.  The GBT’s large collecting area is critical to the GMVA to allow proper calibration and greatly improve its dynamic range. The new GMVA image at 3 mm shows that the “light ring” around the black hole is somewhat larger than that of the original 1 mm image, and that the accretion jet is formed very close to the black hole. 

This GMVA+ALMA image shows M87’s jet and black hole shadow together for the first time, giving scientist’s the context needed to understand where the powerful jet formed. The new observations also revealed that the black hole’s ring, shown in the inset, is 50% larger than scientists previously believed. Credit: R. Lu and E. Ros (GMVA), S. Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Infrastructure is the top priority for the Green Bank Telescope, and despite an unanticipated setback, I have some good news to share. The setback took the form of a broken wheel:  a chunk of metal about the size of a fist fell from one of the 16 GBT azimuth wheels in January 2023.  Because the telescope cannot safely run on a damaged wheel, GBT operations were suspended.  Fortunately, we had a spare wheel, but removing the damaged wheel and installing the spare was a major undertaking. The 17 million-pound structure needed to be lifted and major rigging, jacking, and equipment handling machinery needed to be deployed. The Famco Service and Machine company provided the heavy machinery and expertise to replace the wheel.  The shut down also allowed us to replace some degrading concrete in the GBT foundation. The GBT resumed operations in March.

GBO staff and contractors replace a wheel on the GBT.

The good news is that, with the help and support of the NSF, the GBO has made impressive progress in addressing its infrastructure needs. With an age of over 23 years, the Green Bank Telescope is showing signs of wear in many areas; its coating, wheels, bearing, track, and foundation will all need to be refurbished in the coming years. NSF has provided incremental funding to procure new steel plates for the track, and to replace some of the supporting grout pockets. Some sections of concrete in the foundation have already been replaced, and more sections will be shored up during the upcoming summer shutdown.  The GBO has procured new azimuth wheels and bearings to replace the existing ones.  This work is part of a complete refurbishment plan designed to enable at least 20 more years of scientific discovery. 

Although the shut down delayed our tests on both the UltraWideband Receiver (UWBR) and the new X-band receiver, operations have resumed and we anticipate that, after successful commissioning in the next month, we will be offering both of these receivers to the community in future proposal calls.

As we emerge from the pandemic, I am delighted to meet with 3-dimensional, non-virtual colleagues, visitors, and students once more.  With the generous support of the United Therapeutics Corporation, GBO hosted an exciting and far-ranging workshop on Oxygen in Planetary Biospheres in early May. An astrobiology community consisting of experts in such diverse areas as paleontology, geosciences, microbiology, and planetary modeling held a lively and fascinating workshop. The Observatory is open for business; please consider paying us a visit.

AAS 242 Press Conference: Star Formation Triggered by an Interaction in the Nessie Nebula

An infrared image of the Nessie Nebula, image credit SOFIA.

Hear about this latest research at a press conference on Tuesday, June 6th at 10:15AM MT at the AAS conference LIVE in Albuquerque, or tune in (or catch the recording afterwards) on the AAS Press Office YouTube Channel.

Jim Jackson, GBO director, will share the latest findings in his decades long research on triggered star formation in the filament of the Nessie Nebula.

Green Bank Observatory 2023B Science Program & Time Allocation Committee Report

A total of 68 proposals requesting NSF funded “open skies” time were submitted to the Green Bank Observatory’s Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) for the February 1, 2022 semester 23B deadline. A table is available on our website that summarizes the approved observing programs, including the PI name, proposal ID, proposal title, maximum hours approved and proposal type (Regular, Triggered, Large or External). Proposals from previous semesters that were awarded time in the 23B semester are also included in that information. The table also includes HSA and GMVA proposals that were awarded time on the GBT as a VLBI station as well as proposals accepted via external agreements with CHANDRA, Hubble Space Telescope, FERMI, Swift, and XMM.

Find more information on the Time Allocation Committee report for 23B here.

Updates to NRAO/GBO User Policies

The NRAO/GBO users’ policies have been reviewed and updated by the science support and research department. All users’ policies will be located off the NRAO science website under Proposal Evaluation and Time Allocation.  The policies listed at this new location supersede policies listed elsewhere.

New Page Charge Policy Provides More Support for GBT Papers

GBO encourages the publication of papers using the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) by the community and scientific papers written by our staff. GBO announces an updated policy for page charge support that provides additional support for GBT-related papers for investigators from US-based institutions. Please find this updated policy and an application form here.

2023 Single Dish Summer School

Single Dish School – August 7-11, 2023 (Hybrid)
GBT Training Workshop – August 12-14 (In-Person Only)

The GBO Single Dish Summer School provides students, post-docs, and experts in other fields of astronomy with both knowledge and practical experience of the techniques and applications of single-dish radio astronomy. The workshops are based around an intensive series of lectures from experts, as well as hands-on radio-astronomy projects and tutorials.  Topics that are covered include key science areas for single dish radio telescopes, radio emission properties, fundamentals of radio telescopes and radio frequency instrumentation, observing techniques and strategies, calibration and data processing, and complementary use of single dish and interferometric telescopes.

While the registration deadline for this summer’s session has closed, please keep this and other trainings in mind for your future needs! Keep your eyes on this page for all upcoming trainings and workshops. 

New NRAO/GBO Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship

The new NRAO/GBO Post-Bacc Program provides recent graduates an opportunity to strengthen their applications to graduate school by gaining research experience in radio astronomy or a related field. The program is targeted to students aiming to attend graduate school in the year following their post-bacc appointment. The student will work on a research project under the mentorship of one or more NRAO or GBO scientific staff members. Research projects cover radio astronomy and related sciences.

Students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are eligible to apply. Students must be recent graduates or must soon be graduating with their undergraduate degree, and should have the intention of applying to Ph.D. programs in astronomy or a related field during the year of their appointment. The deadline for applications is June 16, 2023 for appointments beginning in Fall 2023. Learn more and apply now. 

2023 GBO REU Students

GBO welcomes this years cohort of students to research alongside our GBO staff. Applications for 2024 will open this winter, learn more here. 

Mahpara Tasnim (Montana State, Bozeman) – Pedro Salas – The GBT L-band Drift Scan Survey

Mary Rickel (Ohio State) – Emily Moravec – Investigating Radio-AGN in Merging Galaxy Clusters

Vincent Andrews (Florida Institute of Technology) – Jim Jackson – Star Forming Clouds

Suzanne Eisenberg (New Mexico Tech) – Cat Catlett & Kasey Purcell – Characterizing Local RFI Sources in GBT Data

Sam Barton (Rice University) – Kasey Purcell & Cat Catlett – Characterizing Local RFI Sources in GBT Data

Kasey Wei (Case Western) – Thomas Chamberlin – Interactive Dashboard for GBT Archive Data

Lauren Dyzarz (University of St. Thomas) – Anika Schmiedeke – Gas Kinematics of Young Star Forming Regions

Lukas Summers (WVU Tech) – Steve White & Jason Ray – GBT IF Bandwidth Expansion

Emma Samples  Science Center Tour Guide

Charles Burton (Macalester College) – Larry Morgan & Natalie Butterfield – Will be in Charlottesville most of Summer – Examining Galactic Bar Dust Lanes in the Milky Way

Gift Shop discount for AAS attendees!

Love the GBT and GBO? Get 10% off at the Galaxy Gift Shop using discount code GBODIG10. Grab a GBO mug, t-shirt, hat, sticker, and more!

New GBO Staff

Jay Frothingham, Scientific Data Analyst: Originally from Oregon, Jay is a recent graduate of Smith College in Massachusetts. They studied engineering and astronomy while pursuing research in the physics department. Their projects included building portable muon detectors and programming calibration routines for resistive thermometers used in cryogenic measurements of superconductive materials. They are excited about astronomical instrumentation and completed an REU project with NRAO in summer 2022 working with a photonic synthesizer. In their spare time, they like cooking, singing, and tabletop roleplaying games.

Visit the GBO Science Center

The Science Center welcomes the public with interactive exhibits in the Catching the Wave Exhibit Hall and shopping and dining in the Galaxy Gift Shop and the Starlight Café. Presentations and site tours are offered at regular intervals throughout the day, and additional programs are scheduled throughout the month, including High Tech tours of the Jansky Lab, SETI tours, star parties, indoor StarLab programs, family science labs, and other special events. 

Classrooms and a computer lab are available for hosting school groups. Visitors are also welcome to take a self-guided walking tour of the Observatory. The Science Center is free, but fees are charged for all tours and some special events. Advanced registration is required for field trips and large groups. Days of operation and hours change seasonally. Learn more at our website.

Green Bank Observatory Bi-weekly Community Zooms

GBO has been sharing news and information about its operations and science in bi-weekly Zoom meetings every other Wednesday at 1 pm EST (except where noted). The recordings are linked at our website, and include a description of topics and presenters in the recording descriptions. If you would like to watch live, you can also register at our website to be subscribed to the presentations.

GBT Received Simulated Message From Extraterrestrial Intelligence

A Sign in Space imagines how Earth might respond to a signal from aliens and invites the public to help decode an ET message.

Daniela de Paulis, an established interdisciplinary artist and licensed radio operator who currently serves as Artist in Residence at the SETI Institute and the Green Bank Observatory, has brought together a team of international experts, including SETI researchers, space scientists, and artists, to stage her latest project,  A Sign in Space. This revolutionary presentation of global theater aims to explore the process of decoding and interpreting an extraterrestrial message by engaging the worldwide SETI community, professionals from different fields and the broader public. This process requires global cooperation, bridging a conversation around SETI, space research and society across multiple cultures and areas of expertise.

As part of the project, on May 24, 2023, the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) in orbit around Mars will transmit an encoded message to Earth to simulate receiving a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence.

“Throughout history, humanity has searched for meaning in powerful and transformative phenomena,” said Daniela de Paulis, the visionary artist behind the A Sign in Space project. “Receiving a message from an extraterrestrial civilization would be a profoundly transformational experience for all humankind. A Sign in Space offers the unprecedented opportunity to tangibly rehearse and prepare for this scenario through global collaboration, fostering an open-ended search for meaning across all cultures and disciplines.”

Read more in this press release from SETI. 

NSF Telescopes Image M87’s Supermassive Black Hole and Massive Jet Together for the First Time

Scientists observing the compact radio core of M87 have discovered new details about the galaxy’s supermassive black hole. In this artist’s conception, the black hole’s massive jet is seen rising up from the center of the black hole. The jet was born from energy created by the magnetic fields surrounding the spinning core of the black hole and winds rising up from the black hole’s accretion disk. The observations represent the first time that the jet and the black hole have been imaged together, giving scientists new context into the compact radio core of M87. These observations also revealed that the black hole’s ring is 50% larger than previously believed. Credit: S. Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Scientists studying the supermassive black hole at the heart of the M87 galaxy have revealed the origins of the monster’s powerful jet and imaged the jet and its source together for the first time. What’s more, the observations have revealed that the black hole’s ring is much larger than scientists previously believed. Read the complete press release here.

Peculiar Fast Radio Burst Provides Clues to Mysterious Origin

The Green Bank Telescope was able to observe the directional changes of waves from FRB20190520B as viewed through the lens of a massive star’s atmosphere. Image credit: NSF/GBO/P.Vosteen.

Residing in the heart of a dwarf galaxy four billion light years away is a mysterious cosmological object producing bursts of energy that only last a few milliseconds. New research about this Fast Radio Burst (FRB) has revealed a rarely seen astronomical environment around its source, where magnetic fields twist, turn, and undulate over time. This is the first detection of a magnetic field reversal observed from an FRB, and the first time this behavior has been observed in another galaxy. Read more.

SETI, Breakthrough Listen, and Cornell University Search for Extraterrestrial Pulses in GBT Data

Akshay Suresh, a graduate student at Cornell University, spearheads an extraordinary scientific endeavor — a groundbreaking mission to uncover periodic signals emanating from the core of the Milky Way called the Breakthrough Listen Investigation for Periodic Spectral Signals (BLIPSS). Such repetitive patterns could be the key to unlocking the mysteries of extraterrestrial intelligence in our galaxy. BLIPSS is a collaboration between Cornell University, the SETI Institute, and Breakthrough Listen. The team turned their attention to a dataset of scans of the Galactic Center captured by the Breakthrough Listen instrument on GBT. Read more.

Congratulations to 2023 Shaw Prize Winners

Many congratulations to our amazing fellow astronomers and frequent GBT users Duncan Lorimer and Maura McLaughlin for being awarded the 2023 Shaw Prize!

The Shaw Prize is an international award to honor individuals who have recently achieved distinguished and significant advances in the fields of Astronomy, Life Sciences and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences. Read more.

“I’m a coal miner… with a camera.” Learn More About Astrophotographer Dave Green

A panorama of the winter Milky Way over the Green Bank Observatory, photo credit Dave Green.

West Virginia native Dave Green recently shared the story about the creation of his now iconic astrophotography of GBO. Learn more about how he came to shoot onsite and the journey it takes to create his images.

Can We Modernize the National Radio Quiet Zone?

This spring the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a request for information to identify ways to preserve Federal facility operations in the NRQZ while simultaneously enhancing regional safety and vitality for present and future generations. Interested organizations will identify effective strategies, and costs, to improve emergency and civil telecommunications while protecting and enhancing Federal facility operations. Read more.

Radio Interference From Satellites is Threatening Astronomy

Radio telescopes are facing a problem. All satellites, whatever their function, use radio waves to transmit information to the surface of the Earth. Just as light pollution can hide a starry night sky, radio transmissions can swamp out the radio waves astronomers use to learn about black holes, newly forming stars, and the evolution of galaxies.

As the radio spectrum continues to get more crowded, users will have to share. This could involve sharing in time, in space, or in frequency. Regardless of the specifics, solutions will need to be tested in a controlled environment. There are early signs of cooperation. The National Science Foundation and SpaceX recently announced an astronomy coordination agreement to benefit radio astronomy. Read more. 

AstroBio 2023: Oxygen in Planetary Biospheres

The second Blumberg Astrobiology Workshop was held at GBO this past spring. This 3-day workshop focused on topics related to the role of oxygen in the universe, planets, and life, and how the rise of oxygen on Earth may (or may not) likely have analogs on other planets.

Nearly 60 researchers were onsite for the program. Find the schedule and links to recordings here. 

The Green Bank Blumberg Astrobiology workshops are supported by a grant from Unither Bioelectronique, in honor of Dr. Barry Blumberg, the late Chairman of its corporate parent’s Scientific Advisory Board.

GBO Flickr & YouTube resources

If you ever need images of GBO or the GBT, or any of the Observatory’s major events, you can find them on the GBO Flickr account page, which is accessible from the GBO homepage and links embedded here. You can also watch our bi-monthly GBO Community Zooms, science lunches, and recordings from meetings and workshops on the GBO YouTube Channel.