Dedicated in 2000, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is the most technically advanced single-dish radio telescope in the world. Its 110-meter by 100-meter dish boasts more than two acres of area for collecting incredibly faint radio waves from the universe.
Weighing 17 million pounds, the GBT is also one of the world’s largest moving land structures. And since it is located within the National Radio Quiet Zone in West Virginia, the GBT’s sensitive receiving system is well protected from radio frequency interference.
The GBT is a leader in the scientific study of pulsars, dense neutron stars that serve as laboratories in which astronomers study the physics of extreme states of matter and enormous magnetic fields. It can also detect the fingerprints of atoms and molecules far into the distant universe, yielding new knowledge about star formation, the structure and motions of gas in galaxies, and nature’s fundamental constants. And yes, they also lease time to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project, looking for signs of intelligent life…out there.
Know Before You Go
The observatory website is very helpful in planning your visit. The entrance to the science center is right on Route 29 in the town of Green Bank, impossible to miss. There is a small fee for the tour, but active-duty military and veterans get in for free.