From Green Bank to the Galaxy
More than 50,000 visitors come to the
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
in Green Bank each year for something
they can’t see anywhere else: the world’s
largest fully steerable telescope.
Students from North Carolina gather for a lesson in
the Star Lab inflatable planetarium at Green Bank.
Senior Education Officer Sue Ann Heatherly explains
what to look for in the night sky.
“There’s literally nothing like it in the
world,” said Sue Ann Heatherly, senior
education officer. “We get visitors from
as far away as New Zealand who want to
Tours of the observatory start in the
Science Center, which is a 4,000 squarefoot
exhibit hall that opened in 2003.
It includes a planetarium and interactive exhibits for kids of all ages. From there, a
shuttle bus takes visitors for an up close look at the telescope.
“This is a great family destination,” Heatherly said. “Little kids enjoy the bus
ride and once you’re there it’s nice to stroll around and look at the telescope.”
The NRAO offers special high-tech tours twice a month. These tours take
visitors behind the scenes into the labs, where scientists build receivers for the
telescope or work on other projects. Scientists from all over the world apply
for a spot in the telescope control room, where it costs 50 cents per second to
operate it. Star labs are shown each week in the planetarium.
High school students from North Carolina take
part in a scientific scavenger hunt, solving
problems along the way.
The NRAO is open seven days a week in the summer. After Labor Day, it is
open Thursday through Monday. Operating hours are 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free
tours are offered every hour, and admission to the science center is also free.
Learn more at www.gb.nrao.edu.