Good morning and welcome back to another Universe Playpen snippet. I just got back from a wonderful star party at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia (soon to be called the Green Bank Observatory).
This star party (Star Quest XIII) is unique in that you can camp out or stay in a bunk house, have really good food, shop vendors (like meteorites!), take facility tours, collect your own radio data, kids activities, and guest speakers all day and in the evenings! I gave two day-time talks on the different ice geology processes in the Solar System. There was one fantastic clear night where the stars were so dense- picking out constellations was near impossible. The Milky Way arm was from horizon to horizon!
A little bit about the Green Bank Telescope. The dish is the size of almost 3 football fields spanning at 100 meters across. This dish operates at meter to millimeter wavelengths (radio frequencies) and is fully steerable to track objects. Objects can include the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy to Jupiter to even pulsars (densely spinning neutron stars)! There are other radio telescopes on site used for different purposes, such as observing the Earth's ionosphere and radio output from the Sun during solar cycles. Important discoveries from these telescopes and others in the National Radio Astronomy Observatory regime all over the country have found important clues to the understanding of galactic evolution, stellar growth, and black hole development.
New and more summer science camps are being developed for students from high schools and undergraduates to use the telescopes and gain experience to be a radio astronomer.
Tune in next week on some cool facts about what pulsars are and why they are still mysterious!