Scenic USA - West Virginia

Green Bank Quiet Zone

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Green Bank Farm - West Virginia

Photos by Amanda Haddox
Amanda Haddox Photography

     Surrounded by farmland and national forestland of West Virginia, this enormous dish in Green Bank Valley is the calling card of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Scanning the heavens since 1959, NRAO's first 85 foot dish measured surface temperatures on Venus and our Moon, explored Jupiter's radiation belts and detected the composition of our galaxy for the first time. But to the public, the Green Bank observatory is best known for its search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Today, the observatory houses a giant 100-meter, 16 million pound white dish, used by astronomers to collect faint radio waves emitted by distant stars and galaxies, as well as wide-field imaging.
     To protect the observatory's electronic signals, the Federal Communications Commission created a NRAO quiet zone. Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope The 55 year old quiet zone restricts radio transmissions in the area, covering 13,000 square miles in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. State law gives the observatory even more authority, restricting all signals within 10 miles of the telescope. This difficult task attempts to eliminate cellphone, radio and television signals. At the observatory's grounds, television lines are buried, computer rooms are shielded and workers drive diesel cars without the interference of an ignition system. Today's huge jump in wireless technologies, such as cellphones and wi-fi computer links, are creating an ever-increasing problem in the quiet zone.
     This unique farm scene catches a glimpse of the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, built to replace a previous 300 foot paraboloid telescope. Mistaken in the 50s for a mysterious looking objects from outer space, these Green Bank dishes no longer surprise modern sightseers. This working farm poses no problems in the quiet zone and is running almost as it had a half century ago. Here in the zone, this farm is one of West Virginia's 21,000 farms that contribute nearly a half-billion dollars to the state's economy each year.

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