West Virginia. Smack dab in the Radio Quiet Zone, where radio transmissions aren’t allowed. Thus no cell service or wi-fi, and no such devices are allowed within the zone. But why would anyone go here, let alone live in it?
Cause when you’re a Radio Astronomer, you want radio silence. And Green Bank is home to the Green Bank Radio Telescope, the largest fully steerable radio telescope. Fully steerable being important cause it can point to any part of the sky. And it is big:
Truly large. You can’t see the tiny red light at it’s top, and that light is as big as a person’s torso.
And even standing next to the fence, the telescope doesn’t look like it’s 100 meters in diameter.
Now, why am I talking about a radio telescope? Cause I went to the Green Bank Observatory, during last weekend’s OSU Astronomical Society field trip. Over Saturday and Sunday we went to the Green Bank Observatory and spent a night. They were so kind to even give us access to their 40 foot radio telescope. We managed to get some good use out of it before we ‘broke’ it (it got better.)
And I cannot stress exactly how wonderful this trip was. Seeing first hand how Radio Astronomy was done, and being able to do some amateur astronomy with a real dish telescope is the kind of experience you don’t get often! Truly I am fortunate to have gone.
Plus, it was fun as all heck. And it wasn’t all astronomy. There was a large amount of pointing at animals that passed by to stave off mind numbing boredom during a five hour bus trip—and then hiking at a location within the Quiet Zone. A very picturesque location too:
Since I can’t remember it’s real name, I’ll refer to it as Agata Forest.
And yes, mossy ground does feel like carpet.
This trip was a wonderful, once or twice in a lifetime experience. We took readings of the Milky Way, saw astronomy at work, and had a jolly good time.
And really, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
Green Bank Telescope(Arial): Nanograv.org (http://nanograv.org/telescopes/)
‘Agata Forest’: My camera
‘Some Bloke’: Also My Camera