So there we were, on a road trip around Virginia to spend some time with family over the holidays. We were originally planning on going to Roanoke, then over to Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach and back on to Raleigh, but we decided early on that we were going to try and do something for us around new years as a celebration.
Long story short, as an anniversary/Christmas present to ourselves, we decided to go skiing for a few days over new years and our destination ended up being Snowshoe West Virginia. Longer story shorter, we were still trying to be on a budget so we decided on only skiing for two days (originally we planned on three) and instead we were going to go hiking around the mountains some. Well this ended up failing as that day we hit a lot of rain and we didn't come prepared to hike in the rain. (honestly, we were not sure if we would ski because the weather was near 70 degrees for a few days after Christmas!). So we decided we would see how the weather fared as we went and alternatively we tried to find some backup solutions we could do indoors if the weather was poor. Enter Green Bank Observatory.
![blogPics](/static/img/148/telescope.jpg "Worlds Largest Steerable Radio Telescope")
As we approached the town of Green Bank (also where our airBnB was located) the mountains rose out among the scattered clouds and fog that had descended upon the land. But, there in the distance, rising like a laser dish that was part of the death star, was the Green Bank Observatory. This is the home of the world's largest steerable Radio Telescope. And boy was I excited! I don't think I had ever seen such a large satellite looking antenna. It looked awesome peeking through all that fog, it really reminded me of a scene from Star Wars - it could have been really.
Anyway, Green Bank Observatory has tours you can take for $6 per person for an adult and that is what we signed up for. We got to learn about the other telescopes they had on premise and some history about the facility and it was a really awesome time - I highly recommend it. They also provide a lot of ways for students to be involved - like doing overnight observations where they can watch scientists do real experiments - no book work type stuff. Like legit science. Fun fact, any scientist can use the radio telescope - you just have to propose what your looking to do and if it's accepted - you can use it - for free. That's an awesome good deal. It can also be used remotely (as long as you have internet). So scientists across the globe can use the technology for their experiments.
Anyways - this was a total surprise and last minute find for us and it ended up being an awesome little adventure that didn't break the bank. If you ever find yourself in the area of Green Bank West Virginia, it's definitely worth the stop.
- When you enter the town of Green Bank (and the surrounding 10 mile radius of it) you enter the Nation Radio Quiet Zone. This means that you get no signal - Radio, Cell, WiFi. This is due to the observatory using the radio telescopes. (you can google more about this if you'd like - it's very interesting). Essentially, Radio Telescopes listen for radio waves (Gamma , ultraviolet, x-ray, microwave, radio and visible colors, etc.) and if anything in the surrounding area creates more waves - it can skew the results from the radio telescope. **SO**, if you are around, be prepared to have no signal!
- Lastly, if you do plan to make a stop - book a reservation for the star labs - we missed out on this but it was free. You get to go in a big inflatable planetarium and learn more about space and solar systems. It seemed pretty awesome and had we known it was reservation only we would have booked one ourselves!