National Radio Astronomy Observatory


National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Alternative namesNRAO Edit this on Wikidata
OrganizationAssociated Universities, Inc. Edit this on Wikidata
LocationUnited States
Coordinates38°02′12″N 78°31′05″W / 38.0368°N 78.5181°W / 38.0368; -78.5181Coordinates: 38°02′12″N 78°31′05″W / 38.0368°N 78.5181°W / 38.0368; -78.5181
Established1959 Edit this on Wikidata Edit this at Wikidata
TelescopesAtacama Large Millimeter Array
Green Bank Interferometer
Green Bank Telescope
Very Large Array
Very Long Baseline Array Edit this on Wikidata
National Radio Astronomy Observatory is located in the United States
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Location of National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Commons page Related media on Wikimedia Commons

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is a federally funded research and development center of the United States National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc for the purpose of radio astronomy. NRAO designs, builds, and operates its own high-sensitivity radio telescopes for use by scientists around the world.[1]


Charlottesville, Virginia

The NRAO headquarters is located on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. The North American ALMA Science Center and the NRAO Technology Center and Central Development Laboratory are also in Charlottesville.[2]

Green Bank, West Virginia

The 300-foot telescope after collapsing in 1988
The 100-meter Green Bank Telescope

NRAO was, until October 2016, the operator of the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, which stands near Green Bank, West Virginia.[3] The observatory contains several other telescopes, among them the 140-foot (43 m) telescope that utilizes an equatorial mount uncommon for radio telescopes, three 85-foot (26 m) telescopes forming the Green Bank Interferometer, a 40-foot (12 m) telescope used by school groups and organizations for small scale research, a fixed radio "horn" built to observe the radio source Cassiopeia A, as well as a reproduction of the original antenna built by Karl Jansky while he worked for Bell Labs to detect the interference that was discovered to be previously unknown natural radio waves emitted by the universe.[4]

Green Bank is in the National Radio Quiet Zone, which is coordinated by NRAO for protection of the Green Bank site as well as the Sugar Grove, West Virginia monitoring site operated by the NSA. The zone consists of a 13,000-square-mile (34,000 km2) piece of land where fixed transmitters must coordinate their emissions before a license is granted. The land was set aside by the Federal Communications Commission in 1958. No fixed radio transmitters are allowed within the area closest to the telescope. All other fixed radio transmitters including TV and radio towers inside the zone are required to transmit such that interference at the antennas is minimized by methods including limited power and using highly directional antennas. With the advent of wireless technology and microprocessors in everything from cameras to cars, it is difficult to keep the sites free of radio interference. To aid in limiting outside interference, the area surrounding the Green Bank Observatory was at one time planted with pines characterized by needles of a certain length to block electromagnetic interference at the wavelengths used by the observatory. At one point, the observatory faced the problem of North American flying squirrels tagged with United States Fish and Wildlife Service telemetry transmitters. Electric fences, electric blankets, faulty automobile electronics, and other radio wave emitters have caused great trouble for the astronomers in Green Bank. All vehicles on the premises are powered by diesel motors to minimize interference by ignition systems.[5][6]

Socorro, New Mexico

The Very Large Array (VLA), an array of 27 dish antennas

The NRAO's facility in Socorro is the Pete Domenici Array Operations Center (AOC). Located on the New Mexico Tech university campus, the AOC serves as the headquarters for the Very Large Array (VLA), which was the setting for the 1997 movie Contact, and is also the control center for the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The ten VLBA telescopes are in Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight other sites across the continental United States.[7]

Tucson, Arizona

Offices were located on the University of Arizona campus. NRAO formerly operated the 12-Meter Telescope on Kitt Peak. NRAO suspended operations at this telescope and funding was rerouted to the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) instead.[8] The Arizona Radio Observatory now operates the 12-Meter Telescope.[9]

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) site in Chile is at ~5,000 m (16,000 ft) altitude near Cerro Chajnantor in northern Chile.[10] This is about 40 km (25 miles) east of the historic village of San Pedro de Atacama, 130 km (81 miles) southeast of the mining town of Calama, and about 275 km (171 miles) east-northeast of the coastal port of Antofagasta.[11]

On 12 May 2012, another Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) antenna was carried up to the 5,000-metre plateau of Chajnantor, bringing the total on the plateau to 33.[12]

Jansky Prize

The Karl G. Jansky Lectureship is a prestigious lecture awarded by the board of trustees of the NRAO. The Lectureship is awarded "to recognize outstanding contributions to the advancement of radio astronomy."[13] Recipients have included Fred Hoyle, Charles Townes, Edward M. Purcell, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Philip Morrison, Vera Rubin, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Frank J. Low, and Mark Reid.[14] The lecture is delivered in Charlottesville, Green Bank, and in Socorro.

See also


  1. ^ "National Radio Astronomy Observatory". National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Maps & Directions". Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  3. ^ "NRAO Structural Changes: Announcing the Separation of the Green Bank Observatory and the Long Baseline Observatory". Associated Universities, Inc. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  4. ^ "Other Telescopes at Green Bank". Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  5. ^ "National Radio Quiet Zone — Science Website". Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  6. ^ "NRAO Green Bank Site RFI Regulations for Visitors" (PDF). Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  7. ^ "NRAO: Socorro, New Mexico". Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  8. ^ "National Radio Astronomy Observatory - Legacy Content - Tucson". Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  9. ^ "Arizona Radio Observatory". Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  10. ^ "ALMA". Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  11. ^ "ALMA Location". Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  12. ^ "Halfway There: 33 ALMA Antennas on Chajnantor". ESO Announcement. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
  13. ^ "Jansky Lecture Redirect". Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  14. ^ "2012 Jansky Lecturer". Retrieved 20 May 2019.

External links

  • Official website