Early on Saturday morning, Kim, Scott and I headed out for a road trip to West Virginia, not really sure of where we were going but it was going to be an Ab Fab Weekend Kim insisted. We had some ideas on paper but nothing was set in stone and we enjoyed the freedom of just driving new roads. We decided to investigate the Natural Bridge and pulled in to the parking area to find a highly commercialized tourist attraction. We noticed a lad swinging on a rope outside a building, causing Kim to exclaim her concern by crying out, "what the **** is he playing at?" before we realized he wasn't real but luring folks into a wax museum.
We finally got into hilly terrain, climbing and dipping across the Blue Ridge Mountains. We stopped at an outlook to enjoy the view, marveling at how we had the place to ourselves.
We were getting close to Green Bank, the home of the National Observatory. We decided to visit there first thing in the morning but for now we needed to find a bed for the night and some warm clothing. We came across a Dollar Store and strolled in.
We ate our breakfast in a small diner on a foggy chilly morning. The fog was heavy, but undeterred we got to the observatory and found an empty parking lot.
Click here for part of it.There are other telescopes on site which are in use but the GBT is such a jaw dropping piece of equipment that I'll focus on that. It's the largest piece of moving machinery in the world and the most advanced telescope. Weighing in at 17 million lbs, it's the size of 2 football pitches with a 2.3 acre dish and 485ft taller than the Statue of Liberty. Even seeing it from a distance it looks monumental towering over the surrounding forests.
The Observatory stands in a Quiet Zone of approx. 13000 square miles, click here, for more info. This site was chosen because it's in a low development area and predominantly covered by forest parks, minimizing outside interference to the telescope which is dedicated to only picking up signals from outer space. RFI's, Radio Frequency Intereference, are kept down by limiting radio stations to only 2 airing and no cell phone coverage. There is an AT&T tower on Snowshoe Mountain but it's output is curbed. The Observatory has kept many of the pine trees on site as their long coniferous needles provide a natural barrier against RFI's and the staff drive around the site in old Chevys.
After our tour of the site and seeing the other telescopes, which unfortunately didn't really register with me because of the GBT's star performance, ('scuse the pun...), we were dropped back at the center where we checked out the gift shop and very interesting exhibition hall.
Faraday Cage, encased in copper.
This Observatory is an amazing place to visit. It was so interesting, with educational interactive displays, a very friendly atmosphere and just so exceptionally unique that I wanted to stay and do the whole thing all over again. The web page is here. Go!
We walked out to the car chatting incessantly about our visit and armed with goodies from the gift shop. As we drove away, we looked over at the GBT standing proud against the skyline, as impressive as any National Monument.
Another self portrait
1 week ago