Wild, Wonderful, and Aliens?
When you think of West Virginia, does an extraterrestrial listening hub pop into your head? Probably not, but it might from now on. What many people don't know about West Virginia is that it holds a unique, not-so-secret secret.
I went there to investigate it, cus I'm nosey like that and here is what I found.
Snuggled down in the midst of the mountain state, lies the small community of Green Bank. Inside the small community sits the not so small GBT (Green Bank Telescope).
This behemoth of a telescope stands at 485 feet tall (148m), which is taller than the Statue of Liberty for reference, and it weighs 7,600 metric tons. The surface area of the GBT is 100 by 110-meters and has 2,209 actuators (small motors used to adjust position) for its 2,004 surface panels, making the total collecting area of 2.3 acres All this makes it the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world.
The GBT sits inside the Green Bank Observatory and is one of eight telescopes that you can see and learn about there. However, exploring the grounds freely is not something you are welcome to do. Upon entry to the grounds, you may notice the Science Center to your left.
This is a perfect starting location to gain more knowledge and get passes to be able to walk around without getting into trouble. The Science Center also has a Cantina (small snack bar), a Gift Shop, bathrooms, on-site demonstrations with very knowledgeable staff, and they provide bus tours. While you can walk the grounds and do the walking tour, I'd recommend taking the bus tour.
The guides are highly knowledgeable and have been there for a very long time. They have unique stories and can answer any question you could possibly ask. If you take the bus tour, ask them about the raccoon on the GBT, it was my favorite story.
Green Bank sits in the middle of the Radio Quiet Zone, which means no cell service, no WIFI, no hotspots, etc. This quiet zone extends roughly 13,000 square miles. So holding your phone in the air and taking a few steps left or right isn't gonna do you much good.
These telescopes are so sensitive that upon your arrival, you will be encouraged to turn off your phones, smartwatches, and you will not be able to drive your gas-powered vehicles past a certain point. You may notice the vehicles on the grounds are all old diesel vehicles, there is a reason for this.
Going on the bus tour they will explain all these interesting little points to you. You will not be permitted to take photos on your bus tour with the exception of a disposable camera, which is why I don't have many photos to share with you.
The gift shop does sell disposable cameras if you desire to have one. I think they were like $15, which I thought was crazy until I looked up how much they averagely cost nowadays. Yea, go google that. I remember when you could get these for like $5.
You should note, all radio frequency disturbances are noted and observed by Green Bank and they hold the right to and do enforce compliance. Literally, if you live in this town and your old microwave produces too many radio waves, they will come to your house and either have you buy a new one or they may take away your microwave.
*This Fly didn't comply*
This is why the location of the Green Bank Observatory is so important. The Alleghany Mountains act as a sort of buffer, protecting the very sensitive equipment from radio disturbances. Which gives more accurate readings and information on what they're searching for - or whom they're searching for.
For schools, youth groups, and scout groups call and inquire about the different options available. The observatory offers overnight stays and unique experiences for the kiddos.
Address: 155 Observatory Rd, Green Bank, WV 24944
(GPS, phone maps, etc may not work in the area. Having a printed or written down address may be helpful to you.)
Hours: Open Thursdays - Mondays 8:30 am- 4:30 pm (Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
Covid may alter these hours or limit the number of people who can visit and tour the facility. Upon our visit in the summer of 2021, masks were still required on the grounds.
The best way to ensure availability for your visit is by making reservations at https://greenbankobservatory.org/visit/reservations/
Phone: (304) 456-2011
Happy Adventures friends, we'll see ya out there. As always, keep it safe, keep it cool, and stay curious.