Eclipse Event at Green Bank Observatory

Ecplise with corona
Image similar to what West Virginians will see if they observe the eclipse this August.

Image above is similar to what West Virginians will see if they observe the eclipse this August! (Image source:

Have you heard?! This summer, you have the chance to experience a spectacular stellar event! On August 21, the star that brings us spring flowers, warm days by the pool, and the northern lights, a.k.a. our Sun, will be eclipsed by the Moon. Want to see it? You’re invited!


GBT Captures Orion Blazing Bright in Radio Light

A team of astronomers has unveiled a striking new image of the Orion Molecular Cloud (OMC) – a bustling stellar nursery teeming with bright, young stars and dazzling regions of hot, glowing gas.

The researchers used the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia to study a 50 light-year long filament of star-forming gas that is wending its way through the northern portion of the OMC known as Orion A.

The GBT rendered this image by detecting the faint radio signals naturally emitted by molecules of ammonia that suffuse interstellar clouds. Scientists study these molecules to trace the motion and temperature of vast swaths of star-forming gas.

These observations are part of the first data release from a large campaign known as the Green Bank Ammonia Survey. Its purpose is to map all the star-forming ammonia and other key tracer molecules in a massive structure known as the Gould Belt.

The Gould Belt is an extended ribbon of bright, massive stars stretching about 3,000 light-years in an arc across the sky.  This first release covers four distinct Gould Belt clouds, one located in Taurus, one in Perseus, one in Ophiuchus, and Orion A North in Orion.

‘Ageless’ Silicon throughout Milky Way May Indicate a Well-Mixed Galaxy

As galaxies age, some of their basic chemical elements can also show signs of aging. This aging process can be seen as certain atoms “put on a little weight,” meaning they change into heavier isotopes — atoms with additional neutrons in their nuclei.

Surprisingly, new surveys of the Milky Way with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia, found no such aging trend for the element silicon, a fundamental building block of rocks throughout our solar system. This “ageless” appearance may mean that the Milky Way is more efficient at mixing its contents than previously thought, thereby masking the telltale signs of chemical aging.

The Observer Vol 1 Issue 2 – April 2017

Observer masthead


The last few months have seen many exciting developments at the Green Bank Observatory. Two new 3-mm wavelength instruments are having an excellent first full high frequency season – ARGUS, a 16-pixel spectroscopy contend, and MUSTANG-2, a 223-pixel feedhorn bolometer – and we are looking forward to publication of the instrument’s science results. World-class science coming from both our NSF-funded “open skies” time and the telescope time used by our partner organizations continues to be outstanding. Pressure for use of the GBT’s time also continues to increase, and with 17% of the proposers being new to the GBT! We also have a major new educational initiative underway, First Two, which works to increase retention of STEM students in their first two years of college, with a particular focus on first generation college students.

Looking forward, we are preparing for the many and varied educational programs coming up, which range from REU students arriving for the summer, the PING (Physicist Inspiring the Next Generation) camp for students, a new Research Experience for Teachers program, and many, many more activities. And, of course, we are beginning to ramp up our plans for the fall workshop “Transformative Science for the Next Decades with the Green Bank Observatory,” and the accompanying 60th anniversary of sciences from our facility.

Hope to see many of you at one or more of these exciting events!

Karen O’Neil
Green Bank Observatory Director


Frank Drake at 85-1SETI Tours

Our new SETI Tour celebrates Green Bank’s historic Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. Piloted last summer, the tour sold out all but three offerings. The tour lasts about 3 hours and takes guests into the telescope control rooms where Project OZMA and Phoenix took place-just to name a few!

Check out our summer tour schedule for 2017 online at:

Chautauqua Short Courses

May 22nd-25th, 2017

This 2.5 day course is designed to celebrate more than 50 years of contributions to the forefront of astronomy by the telescopes of the Green Bank Observatory and is open to educators of all disciplines. Presentations will emphasize recent research at Green Bank in two areas: pulsar studies, that could lead in the near future to direct detection of gravitational radiation and hydrogen studies that reveal the structure and evolution of galaxies and their dark matter halos.

Learn more:

Space Race RumpusSpace Race Rumpus

June 9th-11th, 2017

It’s a festival. It’s a race. It’s group rides. It’s a clinic. It’s a fundraiser. It’s a tradition. The 6th Annual Space Race Rumpus is a 3-day family music and cycling festival hosted by the Northern Pocahontas Wellness Center at the Green Bank Observatory. If you’ve ever wanted to bring your bike to explore the site trails or miles of scenic roads in Pocahontas County, now’s the time! Registration is now open. Find out more:

ESS Teachers from the 2016 Camp
ESS Teachers from the 2016 Camp

ESS Teacher’s Passport

June 18th-July 1st, 2017

ESS Passport is an amazing professional development program for West Virginia science teachers to prepare them to teach Earth and Space Science. Funded by the West Virginia Math Science Partnership program, the Earth/Space Science Passport workshop provides West Virginia science teachers with professional development in Geology, Meterology and Astronomy concepts that will enable them to teach a new mandated ninth grade Earth/Space Science course. Over a twoweek residential workshop teacher groups rotate through three-day directed studies in each of these content areas. The Green Bank Observatory provides the Astronomy course.

Learn more at

Pulsar Search Collaboratory Camp

July 10th-17th, 2017

The Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) is a joint project between the Green Bank Observatory and West Virginia University (WVU), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goal of the PSC is to give high school students, and their teachers experience doing real research.

Learn more at

Just last year, a new documentary ( called “Little Green Men” was released. The film follows PSC high school students searching for pulsars using data from the Green Bank Telescope.

Physics Inspiring the Next Generation: Investigating the Cosmos Summer Camp Experience

Pulsar Search Collaboratory - Little Green MenJuly 30th- August 5th, 2017

Current 8th graders (rising 9th-graders) will be on location in Green Bank, WV, at NRAO’s world famous Green Bank Telescope. Students will be immersed in the research activities of this national research center. While in residence, students will work in small teams supported by an undergraduate student mentor and an NRAO staff scientist (astronomer, physicist, engineer, etc.) to conduct research by observing the universe with a 40-foot diameter radio telescope.

For more details, visit:

Observer Training Workshop

September 18 – 23, 2017

The Green Bank Telescope (GBT) Observer Training Workshop series provides the essential skills and knowledge needed to use the GBT and maximize its scientific output. We’ve reached capacity for the Spring 2017 training, but there will be plenty of openings for the next session, set for the week of September 18th, 2017.

A separate announcement will be made when registration opens for this event.

Transformative Science for the Next Decades with the Green Bank Observatory

October 16 – 20, 2017

Big Questions, Large Programs, and New Instruments: With new instruments and excellent performance, the 100m Green Bank Telescope is only just reaching its full potential. On this 60th anniversary of the ground breaking for the Green Bank Observatory, we are holding a workshop looking toward the next 10, 20, and even 60 years of the Green Bank Observatory, and invite the community to attend and aid us in planning the future.

For more information, please visit our Web site at


 ten minute  snapshot using the Argus camera on the GBT.

ARGUS camera for GBT 3mm spectroscopy swings into action

Throughout the winter months of 2016-2017 the new ARGUS 16-pixel camera for 3mm spectroscopy has been in regular use on the GBT. The camera was developed by Sarah Church (Stanford University) and collaborators under a grant from the NSF. The first map made during commissioning was shown in the previous GBO newsletter ( Data from a number of projects are now in the hands of the PIs for reduction and analysis.

Read full article online:

INCLUDES program

In October 2016, the Green Bank Observatory received an award from the INCLUDES initiative (NSF #1649323), to build the First Two Network. The problem First Two addresses is post-secondary attrition. Degree completion is key to producing a diverse STEM workforce: Increasing the retention of STEM majors by 25% will “generate three quarters of the targeted 1 million additional STEM degrees needed over the next decade” (PCAST, 2012). Well-shy of half of all undergraduate students who enter STEM majors complete degrees in STEM, and that it is during the first two years of college that most students drop out of the STEM The effects are worse with First Generation College (FGC) students, who not only leave STEM programs but often quit their post-secondary education altogether. Since roughly one third of all post-secondary students are FGC students, addressing the underlying challenges they face could significantly broaden participation in the STEM workforce.

The First Two Network targets rural first generation students who major in a STEM related course of study. Beginning summer 2017, we pilot two early research experiences (for rising freshmen), and an academic year course that builds science process skills, communication skills and leadership expertise. An innovative component of FIRST TWO is the creation of Hometown STEM ambassadors—students who participate will be prepared to mentor their peers, and also conduct outreach in their home school districts.

Finally, there are many studies that inquire into the factors that correlate with post-secondary retention in general, and with STEM attrition specifically but few that focus on rural students. One of our working groups is developing a rigorous educational research project that can advance understanding of the factors affecting rural students’ entry into and persistence in STEM career pathways. For more information about our INCLUDES program, please visit our Education pages at

GBT finds GBT helps find Lost Spacecraft

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.

Read full story here:

GBT Observations Compound Intersellar Helium Ionization Problem

Warm ionized gas is a major constituent of the Galactic interstellar medium, observable through both optical and radio emission lines. To maintain its ionization it requires about 80% of the ionizing radiation from all OB stars in the Galaxy; this is presumably supplied by UV photons leaking from HII regions.

This UV leakage should be sufficient to fully ionize Helium in the diffuse ionized gas, but instead, the fractional ionization of He appears to be relatively low, in the range of 10-20%.

Recent observations with the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) compound this problem. A set of H and He recombination lines was observed toward the envelopes of three ultra-compact HII regions that are still embedded in their molecular clouds. The envelopes have emission measures an order of magnitude greater than that of the warm ionized gas, and are just a few parsecs away from the central stars, which have type O5 or earlier. The data indicate that He is not uniformly ionized in the HII region envelopes. In two cases helium in the envelope is only 30% and 50% ionized. After ruling out the possibility that the helium may be doubly ionized, the authors conclude that the most likely explanation for the discrepancy is selective absorption of helium-ionizing photons by dust.

“Helium Ionization in the Diffuse Ionized Gas Surrounding UCHHII Regions” D. Anish Roshi, E. Churchwell and L. D. Anderson, accepted by the Astrophysical Journal.

observed beam of 6.4 arcsec is the smallest beam observed to date with the GBTGBT hits new performance milestone at 109 GHz

With the installation of the Argus 16-pixel receiver covering 75-115 GHz on the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), it is now possible to characterize the antenna beam above 100 GHz, where the use of the active surface and out-of-focus holography are critical to the telescope’s performance. A recent measurement (2017 March 23) in good weather conditions at 109.4 GHz yielded a FWHM beam of 6.7 arcsec and 6.4 arcsec in azimuth and elevation, respectively. This corresponds to 1.16 Lambda/D at 109.4 GHz, which agrees well with the low-frequency value measured at 9.0 GHz. After applying the standard antenna corrections (focus and active surface), we find no measurable degradation of the beam of the GBT at its highest operational frequencies.

These results are discussed in more detail in the GBT Memo #296:

Post doc Jennifer Weston wins prizeGBO Post-doc Jennifer Weston Wins dissertation prize

Jennifer Weston has just won the 2016 Robert L. Brown Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award. The award presentation, and her talk on the research which led to the award, will be in Charlottesville on April 13.

The Robert L. Brown Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award is administered by AUI and the NRAO on behalf of Bob Brown’s friends and family to honor Bob’s life and career. The Award is given each year to a recent recipient of a doctoral degree from any recognized degree granting institution in the United States, and is substantially based on new observational data obtained at any AUI operated facility and considered to be of an exceptionally high scientific standard.

Featured Receiver – ASIAA 800 MHz HIM Receiver Array

In November of last year, a collaborative effort involving representatives of the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Wisconsin, NRAO, and the Green Bank Observatory gathered to review designs for a proposed focal plane array for the GBT. The proposed receiver system improves the observing efficiency in the 700 to 900 MHz band by replacing the single corrugated prime focus feed with seven short backfire antennas each with an individually cooled cryogenic dewar. The group faced many technical challenges, especially the weight and moment limits of the GBT prime focus feed arm. Some of the margins were razor thin and thus the group plans more modeling of the structure for a better understanding of the wind load analysis.

Read full story online:

 L-band cryogenic Phased Array Feed (PAF) receiver dataNew Phased Array Feed Successfully Commissioned on the GBT

The L-band cryogenic Phased Array Feed (PAF) receiver, with nineteen dual-polarization crossed dipoles located in the focal plane of a reflector antenna, was commissioned on the GBT in March 2017. The testing has confirmed the predicted excellent performance of the PAF, and has also commissioned the unformatted digital link technology developed by NRAO’s Central Development Lab.

Phased Arrays employ a technique in which many small antennas can be combined together to perform the function of a single large antenna. By combining the small antennas together with adjustable phase and amplitude, the properties of the composite antenna beam can be changed (beamwidth and beam direction). Since the beamforming is accomplished by FPGA-based digital signal processing, multiple beams can be simultaneously formed increasing telescope throughput (in this case seven beams in each polarization were formed).

The PAF was developed as part of a collaboration consisting of NRAO, GBO, West Virginia University, and Brigham Young University. More information will be forthcoming as data results are analyzed.

Students track anomalies in the fading of Cassiopeia A

Every summer since 1992, Prof. Dan Reichart of the University of North Carolina (UNC) and a small group of astronomy faculty have taken 15 mostly undergraduate students through an intense, one-week workshop at the Green Bank Observatory called “Educational Research in Radio Astronomy” (ERIRA). While on site the students are engaged in several observing projects with the 40 Foot Telescope including observations of Cassiopeia A, Taurus A, and Cygnus A.

Read Full Story online:

Student art exhibitStudent Art Exhibit

To show support for the Green Bank Telescope, Green Bank Middle School students created some amazing 2-D and 3-D art projects. From intricate Popsicle-stick GBT models to precise blueprint-style charcoal drawings, works included a wide variety in chosen mediums. This project was lead by the art teacher, Alison Flegal, who created the project as a way for students to voice their support for the Green Bank Telescope in response to 2016’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Call for Public Comments. In fact, a few of the works were submitted formally and included among the hundreds of letters. In March, the Green Bank Science Center hosted an art exhibit opening for these works, which are now on display in the lobby. During the opening, these young artists presented their work to both staff and the public. The Green Bank Observatory is an education partner of the Green Bank Elementary Middle School as part of our outreach program.

New online reservation system coming soon!

Coming Soon! The Green Bank Software Development Division will soon release the new Green Bank Observatory Reservation System (GBORS), replacing the previous BOS system and offering expanded capabilities. GBORS will accept reservation requests for everything from an overnight stay to planning a conference. When launched, look for it on our website!

Proposal NEWS

Upcoming call for GBT proposals (18A)

The Green Bank Observatory (GBO) will invite scientists to participate in the next Call for Proposals for the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). The deadline is August 1st, 2017 for Semester 2018A.

Response to the 17B Call for GBT proposals

The 1 February 2017 call for proposals to use the GBT beginning the second semester of 2017 elicited requests for 6647 hours in 100 individual proposals. In the 3mm band there were requests for 1,148 hours for spectroscopy and continuum using the new ARGUS and MUSTANG2 cameras, as well as an additional 191 hours for spectroscopy and VLBI with the 2-pixel”W band” receiver which covers the lower part of the band. Demand for the7-pixel “K-band” camera that covers 18-26 GHz continued to be strong, at 645 hours. More than 3,000 hours were also requested at frequencies below 2 GHz for programs of spectroscopy and pulsar studies.

There were a number of proposals for joint observations with ALMA, the JVLA,Fermi, and other instruments.
More than 17% of the proposers had not previously been on a GBT proposal, showing the continued strong growth of the scientific community’s interest in the GBT. Proposals are now undergoing review and results should be available in early May.


A bit of history: The Green Bank Interferometer confirmed Einstein’s theory

Einstein’s theory of gravity (also known as General Relativity) predicts that the path of a ray of light (or that of a radio wave) will bend when it passes near a massive object. This was first tested in 1919 by Sir Arthur Eddington, who organized an expedition to observe star positions during an eclipse of the Sun from islands near the coast of Africa.

Observing stars close to the edge of the Sun is normally impossible, but during an eclipse, the Sun is blocked out and stars nearby can be observed. The 1919 experiment confirmed the theory and made an instant celebrity of Einstein and of General Relativity.

Read full story online:


Sotware engineer Thomas Chamberlin working in the kitchen
Thomas prepping to help cook the Rec Board Greek lunch

Thomas Chamberlain, Software Engineer

How long have you worked at GBO?
Just under two years now; I started February 23rd, 2015, right after I graduated.

What led you to applying for the position?
Well, I guess there’s some backstory here. My grandfather worked here in the late fifties and early sixties as an operator before moving on to JPL, Socorro, and later Charlottesville. My mother was actually born in Marlinton in 1961, although they left early enough that she doesn’t remember it. She’s an accountant and she was looking for jobs online when, as she tells it, just happened to think of checking out the NRAO for any openings. She’s wanted to get out of the Atlanta suburbs for a while, and I think she has fond memories of this area, going to the summer picnic as a kid and such. She saw a software engineering position open, thought “I think Thomas does that”, and passed it along to me.

Learn more about Thomas here:


Become a Member

Want to help support the Green Bank Observatory? We now have a new Membership and Donation program! Check out the variety of opportunities found at


The Green Bank Observatory employs 100 people on a year round basis, and an additional 40 people in the summer time. While most people tend to think of Green Bank as hiring scientists and astronomers, it takes a village to run the scientific and educational programs. While we have staff from all around the world, the majority of our employees (80%) were born in West Virginia, and roughly 60% of the staff are from Pocahontas County. Of the astronomy staff, 40% are female (compared to the national average of less than 30%). We are committed to a diverse and inclusive work place culture that accepts and appreciates all individuals.
Career opportunities can be found at a new website!Please check out our current listings 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.