One Tank Trip: Green Bank Observatory

GREEN BANK, WV (WOAY) – This week’s One Tank Trip brings us to Pocahontas County. Home of the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope.

The Green Bank Observatory has been a staple of the area for decades, and its prime feature is the Green Bank Telescope.

The observatory features hundreds of different scientific instruments all listening toward the stars.

“We have a lot of different instruments,” Public Relations Director Jill Maluski said. “We have eight different historic telescopes on campus. We have some very famous telescopes used in the first searches for extraterrestrial intelligence. We have a 140-foot telescope used by countries all over the world to observe objects in space.” 

The Green Bank Telescope is the star of the show at the observatory. Standing at 485 feet tall, it’s taller than even the Statue of Liberty. The observatory also sits in a quiet zone, which means you can’t get a cell phone signal for miles. It’s because the instruments used here are extremely sensitive, and can pick up on the slightest energy signatures.

“It’s not the kind that you look through with your eye. Radio telescopes observe energy coming from the universe. We have to limit the types of electronics and radio waves produced so that they don’t interfere with the observations.”

But while you can’t get a cellphone signal, you’ll be far from bored during a visit to the observatory.

The center has a bus tour that takes you all around the Green Bank Observatory Campus, where you’ll learn about what the various telescopes do.

As well, they have a science center filled with interactive exhibits. 

“We’ve been going on about 20 years in this building,” Public Outreach Manager Amanda White said. “We serve about 40,000 people per year during a typical year. In the exhibit hall, we have interesting facts and interactive exhibits which are fun for all ages.” 

COVID-19 precautions are also taken seriously at the observatory, so you can stay safe while you visit. The Science Center and Bus Tours are on limited capacity and masks are required.

And being located in Pocahontas County, you can get there in one tank of gas. 

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