Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) By: Amanda Papavasiliou

Green Bank Telescope was named after Robert C. Byrd who was the Senator in West Virginia and pushed funding for the telescope through Congress

The Green Bank Telescope is located near the United States National Radio Quiet zone, an area that limits how much radio access residents have. With a collecting area of 2.3 acres, the Green Bank Telescope is the largest steerable radio telescope. Due to its ability to turn the GBT allows us to see 85% of the sky.

Construction and Operation

Where: Located on the border of National Forest land, and Allegheny Mountains
  • When: December 19th, 1990
  • Original Price: $75 million
  • Opperating per year: Roughly $10 million
  • Who paid: Funding from the Government
  • Donaters since 2012: The North American NanoHertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves, West Virginia University, and the Breakthrough Listen project
  • How long: About 9 years in one facility
  • Who operates it: National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) until September 30, 2016
  • Why did NRAO stop operating: Because the Arecibo Telescope is very similar as GBT and it was thought that funding could be used somewhere else
  • Who operates it now: October 1, 2016, the telescope has been operated by the newly-created Green Bank Observatory
What makes up the GBT
National Radio Astronomy Observatory logo

Link to NRAO website:

In the 1960s NRAO moved its headquarters from Green Bank to the University of Virginia's campus
Link to GBT website: Twitter to GBT:
Green Bank Telescope Observatory

Physical Characteristics

Image to show height comparison
  • Height: 485 foot (148m) (60% taller than the Statue of Liberty). It also requires about 7,653 beams to support the telescope
  • Structures weight: 7,600 metric tons
  • Material of mirrors: Aluminum
  • Surface panels: 2,004 surface panels, each panel an be individually adjusted to keep the refection´s shape to 100 millionths of a meter
Radio telescope with the radio waves
Simulation of collecting dish

Optical Characteristcs

  • What region(s) of the EM spectrum does it observe: Radio Frequency
Image of different viewing facilitates and where they fall on the EM spectrum
  • Resolution: FW HM<1GHz = 12.73 → 13.290 fGHz = 763.8 → 797.4 00 fGHz

Research and Purpose

  • GBT can “hear” faint radio waves emitted from the universe
It is able to see 85% of the entire celestial sphere, and due to the design of the antenna it is structurally sound.
  • GBT is set apart from other telescopes because:
  • GBT dish is completely unblocked, this means that its focal point is over the edge of the dish not in the center like other telescopes
  • The image above shows the GBT can be moved based off of where it is wanted to pick up signals

The image above is showing the receiver feedhorns above the roof of the telescope. There are nine receivers, the frequency ranges from 300 MHz to 50 GHz


  • 2002:
  • Three new millisecond pulsars (pulsating radio star) were discovered in cluster Messier 62 (globular cluster in constellation Ophiuchus discovered in 1771)
  • 2006:
  • Large coil-shaped magnetic field in the Orion molecular cloud, and large hydrogen superbubble 23,000 light years away Ophiuchus Superbubble
  • Biggest neutron star ever detected
  • Cloud of primordial gas which surrounds other galaxies
Image of a spectral line observation of a star forming


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