Since January, scientists taking part in a $100 million, 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence have used Pocahontas County’s Green Bank Telescope to search the 200 stars nearest Earth for radio signals bearing clues of the possible presence of other civilizations.
The search, called Project Breakthrough Listen, was announced last July by Russian billionaire and space philanthropist Yuri Milner and renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking.
The announcement that Breakthrough Listen observations are underway came during a news conference in New York on Tuesday, during which Milner and Hawking announced the launch of Breakthrough Starshot, another $100 million space research initiative funded by Milner’s Breakthrough Foundation. The new initiative provides funding to design, engineer and demonstrate the feasibility of developing a fleet of miniature, robotic, light-powered “nanocraft” to explore beyond our solar system and check for signs of life in the neighboring Alpha Centauri star system, 4.37 light years distant.
For years, Green Bank has been known as the Quiet Zone but thanks to AT&T some parts are about to get loud.
Green Bank West Virginia is home to the world’s largest steerable telescope and it’s located at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Pocahontas County. For more than 20 years, the enormous telescope has prevented residents and vacationers at Snowshoe Mountain Resort to function without the use of cell service.
“The GBT is huge, it’s 2.3 acres of collecting area. If you want to think about it, it means you can pick up the entire Mountaineers Stadium and stick it right inside the dish,” said Dr. Karen O’Neil, the observatory’s site director. “The Green Bank Telescope is an astronomical instrument. We use it to go out, we use it to look up at the sky and to try to understand the big questions of how did we get here, and to really understand how galaxies formed and how the universe form and how we formed.”
Given scientists’ current understanding of how often galaxies merge, limits point to fewer detectable pairs of supermassive black holes than previously expected.
On the heels of their participation in the historic research that resulted in the detection of gravitational waves, West Virginia University (WVU) astrophysicists continue to plow new ground and build upon their work.
WVU scientists were members of the LIGO team that detected gravitational waves from merging pairs of black holes approximately 29 to 36 times the mass of the Sun, confirming that distortions in the fabric of space-time can be observed and measured.
WVU scientists are also continuing to make discoveries about the universe as members of North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav), which has spent the past decade searching for low-frequency gravitational waves emitted by pairs of black holes with masses many millions of times larger than those seen by LIGO.
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
Most mornings, Steve Padilla rides in an open-air elevator to the top of the 150-Foot Solar Tower at Mount Wilson Observatory, in the mountains just east of Los Angeles. When he opens the dome, sunlight beams in. Padilla aligns two mirrors in the century-old telescope, sending a reflection of the Sun toward a lens. Downstairs, a 17-inch image of the star appears on a piece of paper
Padilla catches a ride back down in the elevator and stands before the paper. It’s time to draw.
All day, Padilla will sketch sunspots, adding his drawings to an archive that stretches back to 1917—the longest consistent record of solar activity. This has been his routine for 40 years. “In a way,” he says, “you could say these drawings are a little daily work of art.”
And so, on top of this mountain, he sits like wise man of old, a knower of stars, a person apart. And also a volunteer. In recent years, Mount Wilson Observatory’s funding—and particularly the money for the 150-Foot Solar Tower—has waned. Padilla stayed after the money left, in April 2014, because this telescope, and this mountain, are his life. “I had so many years here, I didn’t know what to do if this is all over now,” he says.