Visitors to the West Virginia telescope get a close-up with the world’s largest movable land object
NRAO, AUI, NSF
Long before we reached Green Bank, W.Va., the gleaming white dish of a massive radio telescope stood out against the lush green vegetation of a remote valley four hours southwest of Washington, D.C. By then, the car radio received only static, and our cellphones hadn’t gotten a signal in hours. To get even closer to the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope — the world’s largest movable land object — we were required to turn off those useless phones and our digital cameras.
“The big battle we have here is to prevent any interference from getting to our telescope,” says Steve White, leader of the telescope’s microwave engineering group.
Many objects in the universe, such as quasars and clouds of hydrogen gas, give off radio waves, but they are weak and easily overwhelmed by human-made radio signals. That is why the telescope is in such a remote spot with strict rules about electronic equipment that could interfere with signals.