Summer Science Newsletter (Special Edition for June #AAS240)


Director’s Message

GBO @ #AAS240

Results from the GBT 22B Proposal Call

Upcoming GBT Proposal Call 

GBT Proposal Planning Workshop, July 12th, 2022

GBT Training Workshop, August 3-5

Galactic & Extragalactic High Velocity Clouds, June 26 -29, 2022

K-Band Science Using the GBT Workshop, September 19-21, 2022

UWBR Progress

Future of Earth’s Defense is Ground-based Planetary Radar: GBO/NRAO Response to Planetary Science & Astrobiology Decadal Survey 

Progress on the Newest CHIME Instrument at Green Bank Observatory

GBT & FAST reveal new origins of bright radio flashes in the Universe

GBO/NRAO REU Opportunities

2022 Physics Inspiring the Next Generation Summer Camp

New Grant Supports Citizen Science Searching for Intelligent Life with the GBT

GBO is Hiring

Alyssa Goodman, Drake Lecture Award Winner

Visit the GBO Science Center

AAS GBO Gift Shop Discount

Volunteers Build Bird Boxes to Support Local Ecosystems & Citizen Science

Green Bank Student Scientists Launch Massive Balloon for Airborne Experiments

GBO Staff News

Orion rising over GBT 

Director’s Message

Green Bank Observatory (GBO) Director Jim Jackson on the receiver deck of the Green Bank Telescope (GBT.)

The last time I wrote for the newsletter, I had just begun my work at Green Bank. After six months at the observatory, I better appreciate our amazing staff and how hard they work to keep the data flowing.  My first six months have been eventful. The observatory continues to deliver cutting-edge science. For example, GBT polarization data, combined with data from FAST and other telescopes, have contributed to a unified picture of repeating Fast Radio Bursts that suggests a complex local environment, perhaps generated by an explosive event (Feng et al. 2022).

With the help of generous funding from the Moore Foundation, the Green Bank Observatory has developed a new receiver, the Ultra-Wideband Receiver, which will provide simultaneously frequency coverage from 0.7 to 4.0 GHz.  Right out of the gate, during its “first light” tests this spring, we detected a pulsar across the entire frequency range, as well as the 21 cm H I line in a galaxy. The UWB receiver provides an exciting new capability for the GBT, especially useful for improving the precision of measuring the arrival time of pulsar pulses. The feedhorn is also the most beautiful I have ever seen, making the USB receiver both a scientific and an artistic success. If all goes well with commissioning tests this summer, the receiver will be available to the community at the next call for proposals.

Last April 23, the Drake Lecture was delivered by Alyssa Goodman at the Green Bank Science Center.  The Drake Award is given to a person who has made important contributions to scientific communication. Professor Goodman is well known not only for her groundbreaking research, but also for the innovative techniques she has helped to develop to visualize and understand complex, 3-dimensional data sets at many wavelengths. Her lecture clearly demonstrated the deeper understanding one gets from visualizing data using the state-of-the-art tools.

The future of the GBO promises more improvements and advances—in infrastructure, in developing a radar system, and I hope, in building new radio cameras to take full advantages of our collecting area and sky coverage to make sensitive, large-scale images of the radio sky. If the first six months are any indication, I predict I’ll have lots of exciting new science to share in future newsletters. Stay tuned!

GBO @ #AAS240

Download a list of all presentations sharing data from the Green Bank Telescope (GBT.)

Stop by our booth in the expo hall! Grab some cool GBO swag, talk to our staff (including our Director Jim Jackson) and chat with our Web & Graphic Designer about a new and improved GBO website.


Results from the GBT 22B Proposal Call

A total of 70 proposals requesting NSF-funded “open skies” time were submitted to the Green Bank Observatory’s Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) for semester 22B. Proposals are reviewed on a competitive basis with a panel review system (see Proposal Review System). A description of the 22B proposals accepted can be found here.

Coming Soon, GBT Proposal Call 23A

The deadline for the 23A semester proposal call will be August 1, 2022 at 5pm EST (21:00 UT).  All other information and dates are yet to be determined.

Find information on past proposal calls.

GBT Proposal Planning Workshop, July 12th

The Green Bank Telescope (GBT) Proposal Planning Workshop will provide the essential skills and knowledge needed to propose for telescope time on the world’s largest steerable telescope. This workshop is intended for new observers to learn how to propose to use this instrument as well as returning observers interested in learning about the most up-to-date capabilities of the GBT. We will host a virtual workshop on July 12th 2022 and an office hour on July 15th. Learn more and register.

GBT Training Workshop, August 3-5

Observers at a 2021 workshop at the dish level of the GBT.

The GBT Training Workshop is open to GBT users and the scientific community and is intended for observers with accepted projects to learn how to use the GBT and become remotely certified. The workshop is August 3-5, 2022 and will be entirely virtual. Applications for this workshop will open on May 1, 2022 and close on June 22, 2022. This will be a 2.5 day virtual training workshop. We have a limited number of spaces and will inform applicants of their acceptance by July 1. Learn more and apply now.

Galactic & Extragalactic High Velocity Clouds, June 26 -29, 2022

High-Velocity Clouds (HVCs), those assemblies of gas around galaxies that do not follow galactic rotation, have been enigmatic since their discovery almost 60 years ago. Recent advances both observational and theoretical have clarified their properties and their importance to galaxy formation and evolution. To explore this topic further a Green Bank Workshop on “Galactic and Extragalactic High-Velocity Clouds” will be held June 26-29, 2022. It will bring together scientists with a diverse range of interests for lively discussions of the latest observations, computational models and theoretical considerations. Read the full workshop announcement. 

K-Band Science Using the GBT Workshop, September 19-21, 2022

GBO is planning a workshop on K-band science, past, present and future, covering science that has utilized/will utilize the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). The goals of this workshop will celebrate the success of prior observing campaigns and the K-band Focal Plane Array (KFPA), while encouraging use of the available archival data; poll the community on the science being done or proposed at K-band to establish if the GBT is able to meet those needs; and seek community input on the future direction of K-band science and instrumentation at Green Bank.

Read the full workshop announcement and pre-register now. A shortlist of pre-registrants will be notified in July to attend the conference up to the capacity of the observatory site. 

UWBR Progress

In March 2022, GBO staff installed a new 0.7-4 GHz ultra-wideband receiver on the GBT for pre-commissioning tests. The primary science driver for the ultra-wideband receiver is the detection of low-frequency gravitational waves through the technique of high-precision pulsar timing. The receiver will also enable wide-band studies of fast radio bursts and other transients, and studies of regions rich in molecular spectral lines.

During the first GBT test, the ultra-wideband receiver achieved first light, detecting a pulsar across the receiver’s entire frequency range, as well as Galactic and extra-galactic HI. Successfully observing astronomical sources and demonstrating the basic functionality of the ultra-wideband receiver are excellent outcomes for a first on-sky test. Engineering adjustments are currently being made, and the receiver is scheduled for additional testing and commissioning this summer. If testing progresses smoothly, the ultra-wideband receiver would be made available to the scientific community as soon as 2023A GBT observing semester.

The ultra-wideband receiver is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Future of Earth’s Defense is Ground-based Planetary Radar: GBO/NRAO Response to Planetary Science & Astrobiology Decadal Survey

A new radar system being developed by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Green Bank Observatory will transmit powerful radar signals from the Green Bank Telescope (top right panel) and, in this illustration, bounce those signals off the Moon (middle right). The reflected signal can be received by antennas of the Very Long Baseline Array, in various locations across the U.S., Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands (bottom right). The combination of antennas acts as a giant, high-resolution radar imaging system. Credit: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF.

Powerful radar systems have played a major role in the study of planets, moons, asteroids, and other objects in our Solar System for several decades, and now have a “unique role” to play in planetary defense – “providing protection to the nations of the world from devastating asteroid and comet impacts,” according to the newly released Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the Green Bank Observatory (GBO) are developing new capabilities for the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) that will make them key instruments for meeting this need. Read more

Progress on the Newest CHIME Instrument at Green Bank Observatory

The new CHIME outrigger at Green Bank is currently Foundations for the CHIME outrigger telescope under construction at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia. Photo credit: National Science Foundation/Green Bank Observatory.

In the quest to identify the origins of one of astronomy’s biggest mysteries – fast radio bursts (FRBs) – Canada’s world-renowned telescope, the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), is getting backup.

Supported by approximately $10 million in grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the CHIME/FRB Outriggers project has now secured funding to complete the construction of three new radio telescopes to work in conjunction with the main CHIME instrument, located in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

The new outrigger telescopes are smaller versions of the original set to be built in three locations across North America. One of the outrigger sites is in Canada:

  • Near Princeton, British Columbia, where construction of the new telescope’s reflector has already been completed

The other two are in the United States and result from partnerships with existing radio astronomy observatories:

  • The Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, where it sits in the middle of the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ).
  • The Hat Creek Radio Observatory in California, where the CHIME/FRB project has partnered with the SETI Institute.

“Green Bank Observatory’s distance from the other CHIME locations, being within the NRQZ and the pre-existing infrastructure available on our campus make this the perfect site for a new CHIME Outrigger. The instrument will benefit from the protections of radio frequency interference that the NRQZ provides. It is good to see our extensive 2,700 acre campus being used in new ways, and it is exciting to see this impressive instrument under construction,” said Andrew Seymour, a Green Bank Observatory scientist working with the CHIME team on the project. Read more.

GBT & FAST reveal new origins of bright radio flashes in the Universe

Scientists using the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) have teamed up to shed light on the origin of the thousands of mysterious fast radio bursts that hit the Earth each day from locations far beyond the Milky Way.

Fast Radio Bursts, called FRBs for short, were discovered by accident more than 15 years ago. These intense broadband flashes of radio emission last only a thousandth of a second. After the first one was discovered, radio telescopes spent hundreds of hours looking to see if it would flash again, but it was quiet. Astronomers now know that there are thousands to hundreds of thousands of these flashes hitting Earth every day, that they come from something so energetic that it can be detected across the Universe, and that a few of them actually repeat. But their origin is still a mystery.

Are the “repeaters” a different class of object from the others who give off a single flash and then are silent? The new data from FAST and the GBT focused on one particular aspect of the radio bursts: their polarization. Read more.

Alyssa Goodman, Drake Lecture Award Winner

Alyssa Goodman received the Drake Lecture Award from GBO Director Jim Jackson. The base of the award was fabricated in the GBO machine shop and the pottery was made by West Virginia artist, Alison Flegel. 

The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence began in Green Bank, West Virginia through the endeavors of Frank Drake, at the start of his career as a scientist in the early days of the Green Bank Observatory. To honor Drake’s impact on the public understanding of science, an award was established in 2019. A scientist who has made significant contributions to society, inspiring others to explore the mysteries of the Universe, is selected each year to share a lecture about their work.   In 2019, this winner was Ira Flatow, a household name in science journalism, and host of the popular radio show Science Friday. In 2020, astrophysicist Alyssa Goodman was selected – and the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to an in person lecture – postponed until April 23rd, 2022. Read more about this event and watch a recording.

GBO/NRAO REU Opportunities

2022 REU students and NRAO/GBO staff.

Are you an undergraduate or graduate student looking for a research opportunity in summer 2023?  Apply for one of our research student opportunities! Green Bank Observatory has several programs that offer a research experience during a 10-12 week summer residency. Students receive a stipend to offset housing and living expenses during their experience onsite in Green Bank. 

These programs include:

  • The Undergraduate Summer Student Research Intern program is for undergraduate students or graduating college seniors who are U.S.citizens, are from an accredited U.S. Undergraduate Program, or are otherwise eligible to work in the United States. This experience is funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) program.
  • The Physicists Inspiring the Next Generation (PING) program was created to expose traditionally underrepresented minorities to radio astronomy science and engineering. As part of this program, PING mentors will also have an intensive education outreach experience, serving as instructors and mentors for middle school students during a 2-week physics/astronomy research camp with the Green Bank Science Center. PING mentors will also work directly with a Green Bank scientist or engineer for an 8-10 week research experience, very similar to the REU program. The PING program can also support students who do not meet the REU guidelines, such as foreign undergraduate students.
  • The Graduate Summer Student Research Intern program is for graduate students who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States, enrolled in an accredited U.S. Graduate Program. Graduate intern funds are subject to availability, and we do not host graduate interns in Green Bank every Summer. 

Starting dates for summer REU and internship positions are flexible, usually beginning in late May.  These positions can run 10-12 weeks, based on the arrangement made between the student participant and their mentor. Applications will open December 2022 with a deadline in February 2023. Learn more.

2022 Physics Inspiring the Next Generation Summer Camp

PING campers rockin’ their tie-dye.

PING Camp (Physics Inspiring the Next Generation) is a STEMtastic overnight summer camp that actively seeks to increase the diversity of the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technologists. This camp is for 8th-graders (rising 9th-graders) who are interested in science, engineering, math, and a fun and challenging camp experience. We are especially interested in recruiting youth from historically excluded and under-represented groups in STEM majors and careers.

This annual two-week summer camp will host just under 20 students in 2022 from late July to early August. Program leaders include Science Center staff, along with college student mentors from our summer REU program, alongside Observatory scientists and engineers. There is no fee for students accepted into this fully funded program.

Applications will open for 2023 early next year. Learn more.

New Grant Supports Citizen Science Searching for Intelligent Life with the GBT

The Planetary Society has awarded nearly $50,000 to UCLA Professor Jean-Luc Margot for a new citizen science project using the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), “Are We Alone? A Citizen-Science-Enabled Search for Technosignatures.”

Margot heads one of the current leading searches for extraterrestrial signals with the UCLA SETI Group which uses the GBT. These observations focus on 100 stars known to have planets around them, and due to the width of the radio telescope field of view, they pick up tens of thousands of additional stars and planetary systems.

Read more about this award and listen to an interview with the Planetary Society and award winner Margot. 

GBO is Hiring

Want to work at the site of the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope? See what positions we have open, and learn about our apprenticeships and internships.

Visit the Science Center

A new feature in the Science Center exhibit hall allows visitors to connect their phones (like the locals do) to access the internet while in the National Radio Quiet Zone. Director Jim Jackson tries out an interactive educational aid with his phone, brought by Alyssa Goodman for the Drake Lecture, while a student also connects online. 

Visit the Green Bank Observatory Science Center this summer! See new exhibits, sign up for SETI and High Tech Tours, and more! 

GBO Gift Shop Discount for #AAS240

Do you love Green Bank and the GBT? Show off in the latest GBO swag, from t-shirts to hats, stickers, water bottles, coffee mugs, key chains, and more! Get a special discount for #AAS240, save 10% with the code: GBODIG10.

Volunteers Build Bird Boxes to Support Local Ecosystems & Citizen Science

2021-22 Americorp Staffer Joe Medica, pictured top right, with bird box building volunteers.

This past spring, the Green Bank Observatory and the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area hosted an event with the Deer Creek Defenders 4-H club to build nesting boxes for the Green Bank and Arborvale bird population. This project was managed by AmeriCorp staffer Joe Medica.

The new bird boxes were built to replace old boxes initially deployed by Dave Curry, a retired Observatory employee, and the founder and main proponent of the citizen science program involving these boxes on the Observatory grounds. The lumber used to build these boxes was pre-cut by Observatory staff, and the pieces were labeled and drilled to make the boxes simpler to construct. Read more.

Green Bank Student Scientists Launch Massive Balloon for Airborne Experiments

Students and volunteers get the balloon ready to launch.

Budding scientists in Green Bank, West Virginia embarked on a new mission in May. Students in Ms. Brown’s 7th grade class planned extensively to launch a 12-foot diameter, high altitude helium balloon to conduct several scientific experiments.

After its launch in Green Bank, the balloon and payload exceeded the 60,000-ft. ceiling of its transmitter signal near West Augusta, Virginia. The retrieval team scoured the steep mountains to locate the payload for several days using its internal GPS tracking system. The payload was finally recovered on Memorial Day weekend, and the student scientists will now access the data collected by the cameras and experiments located inside. Read more.

Staff News

Priscilla Grimes, a GBO Shop Technician, recently received her official apprenticeship certification completed at the Observatory. This training led to her permanent full time position with the Observatory.

Anika Schmiedeke the newest GBO Assistant Scientist, joined the team after a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute in Garching, Germany. She received her PhD from the University of Cologne in 2016. Anika’s research specialty is in the area of star formation, and she has extensive observing experience with the IRAM-30m and the GBT/Argus.

Pedro Salas was previously a Post Doc at the Observatory and officially joined the staff as an Assistant Scientist in February 2022. Pedro received his PhD from Leiden University. His work focuses on ionized gas in the Milky Way, star formation, high-angular resolution, and instrumentation of the GBT. He has an active role in the Laser Antenna Surface Scanning Instrument (LASSI) project, which aims to improve GBT efficiency for observations at frequencies above 25 GHz.

Ellie White joined the staff as a Data Analyst. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physics with Honors from Marshall University. Ellie should be a familiar sight to everyone as she has used many of the telescopes on site as part of her high school studies and in her undergraduate research projects.

Zack Graham is our newest Operations Specialist (Telescope Operator). Zack has a degree in Geography from Concord University and has most recently worked as floodplain coordinator for the town of Marlinton.

Victoria Catlett (“Cat”) joins GBO as a Software Engineer after recently graduating from the University of Texas at Dallas after majoring in Physics and Mathematics.

Tyler Hise has moved from Operations Specialist (Telescope Operator) to Systems Administrator in the Computing Division.

Anthony Nucilli has been promoted to Technical Manager, Maintenance for Telescope Operations Division.

Jeremy Moore has been hired into a Maintenance Specialist position and will continue with his work in the RCBI Electrical Apprenticeship program.

Priscilla Grimes has been promoted to Shop Technician II.

Jonah Bauserman has been promoted to Technical Specialist II.

Walter Klahold has been promoted to Electronics Engineer III.

Kasey Purcell has been promoted to Software Engineer II.

Matthew Harrison has been promoted to Software Engineer II.

Cindy Defibaugh has been promoted to Inventory & Supply Clerk.

Jane Donet, Jacob Foe, and Cynthia Jackson joined the hospitality team. 

Orion rising over GBT

West Virginia photographer Dave Green created the amazing astrophotography image seen above, which shows the constellations of Barnard’s Loop, the Horsehead, Lambda Orionis, and more above the GBT.

Green took the photo from the Observation deck located in the Janksy Lab parking lot. This is a safe and publicly accessible space for photography, which will not cause interference to observations.

Says Green, quoted from Channel 59 News, “I set up a mile away in the observatory parking lot on a cold -5° night to capture the Orion Constellation set on the giant satellite. In the sky you can see Barnard’s Loop, the Horsehead, Orion, Lambda Orionis, and more. The sky was imaged with a modified Canon t3i on a small sky tracker at 50mm. “Modified” sounds more technical than it is. I took the camera apart and broke pieces out! The filters that come stock in a digital camera that prevent issues like red eyes also prevent the camera from recording the red hydrogen alpha in the night sky. The red structures are nebulous regions of our Milky Way where stars are forming. I would consider this as my first “deepscape” image (deep space object in a landscape). I planned for it a couple months. I used Google Earth, PhotoPills, Stellarium, and Telescopius to prepare. I wasn’t exactly sure how close my calculations were, but the time-lapse I recently posted shows Orion setting over the dish. Orion landed exactly where and when I expected. Very “cool” night!” 

Read more.