Friday, July 24, 2009

National Radio Astronomy Observatory

When we had a few days free for Memorial Day weekend, I gave Hippo a choice of where to go for our first road trip of the summer. So we looked at a map and tourbook to see what was nearby and found... a GIANT RADIO TELESCOPE!

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is in Green Bank, West Virginia, about four hours from Washington, DC. Scientists use the telescopes to study stars, the sun, and interstellar space. The telescopes are so sensitive to electronic signals that digital cameras are forbidden. We bought an old film camera just for the occassion.

The biggest telescope is two miles from the visitor center (where we learned about radio astronomy and ate a couple space hotdogs). Since it was raining, we traveled by bus rather than walking it. But clouds and rain don't stop the telescopes – the wavelengths of light they study shine right through the clouds, so the telescopes keep working day and night.

The Green Bank Telescope is the largest moving structure on land. It's taller than the Washington Monument. It's studying the formation of galaxies in the early universe, black holes, pulsars (listen), and supernovae.

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