I volunteer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, WV, home of the world's most advanced single dish radio telescope. Recently the National Science Foundation published a document called the portfolio review which recommends closing this telescope, and others by 2017, in order to build new telescopes. You the American taxpayer, own this marvelous instrument. Please sign this petition to keep one of the jewels of American technology and innovation operating for the future.
Jerry Beck II
THE GREEN BANK TELESCOPE
The GBT, located in Green Bank, West Virginia, is the largest and most capable fully steerable single-dish radio telescope in the world. It is a cutting-edge research instrument at the height of its powers, and it is continually growing more capable through the introduction of low-cost upgrades to its light detecting and processing electronics. It is the only world-class astronomical telescope in the eastern United States and has been in full scientific operation for less than 10 years.
Weighing sixteen million pounds, and able to precisely point its 2.3 acres of light-collecting surface area anywhere within all but the southernmost 15 percent of the celestial sphere, the $95 million GBT is an engineering and scientific marvel unlikely to be recreated, much less surpassed, by American astronomy for decades to come. Indeed, astronomers in other parts of the world are at work trying to build their own telescopes of similar concept and design to the GBT, but none of those telescopes will exceed its performance.
The GBT is used by astronomers and students around the world for important research. It is a powerful tool for searching out the molecular building blocks of life in space, for probing the nature of matter at extreme densities, for mapping diffuse clouds of intergalactic gas that are invisible to other telescopes, for finding beacons in space that can serve as mileposts for calibrating our understanding of cosmic distance scales and the characteristics of Dark Energy, for detecting gravity waves first predicted by Einstein, and for pioneering and experimenting with new observational tools and techniques.
The GBT's annual cost of operation is about 0.7 percent of the annual federal budget for astronomy and astrophysics, but the cost of replacing it, once it's gone, would be enormous. In an era of constrained budgets, leveraging and improving the existing state-of-the-art through low-cost technology upgrades (the development of which often involves students) is a cost-effective way to keep science moving forward. Today's GBT, because of such improvements, is 10 to 100 times more powerful than the original telescope, which entered full science operations in 2003. With small upgrades, the GBT has substantial potential to continue on this upward arc of increasing scientific power.