In response to the governors of New Mexico, Virginia, and West Virginia closing the schools in those states, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the Green Bank Observatory (GBO) are closing their facilities in all three states. The closures affect the staffs and the visitor centers at the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in Green Bank, WV, and NRAO Headquarters in Charlottesville, VA.
Under the closures, skeleton staffs will maintain scientific observing with the VLA, the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), and the GBT, and the remainder of the staffs will work from home as possible. Staff members working from home will be accessible via email and will endeavor to continue providing services. The visitor centers at both observatories will be closed to the public.
“Our priority is to protect the health of our staff and also to do our part in helping our states and communities combat the nationwide outbreak of Cornonavirus-19 Disease (COVID-19),” said Tony Beasley, Vice President for Radio Astronomy of Associated Universities, Inc., the organization that operates both NRAO and GBO for the NSF.
To date, no employees of either observatory have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
“As long as we can, we will continue to provide the service to the scientific community that is our mission. These measures seek to maximize the social distancing that will help reduce the spread of this disease,” Beasley said.
Observatory officials will continuously monitor the situation and the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as of state agencies, and will take additional measures if necessary.
“This is a difficult time for our observatories and our nation, but I am confident that our team can support these public health initiatives and help keep our colleagues and our neighbors as safe as possible,” Beasley said.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Green Bank Observatory are facilities of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.
Dave Finley, Public Information Officer, NRAO