National Radio Astronomy Observatory
P.O. Box O
Socorro, New Mexico 87801

August 8, 2000


Dave Finley
(505) 835-7302

Rebecca Johnson
(804) 296-0323

Helen Sim
(804) 296-0268

On August 23 and 25, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO),
a research facility of the National Science Foundation (NSF), will host a
pair of events highlighting the past and future of radio astronomy.
In Socorro, New Mexico, the observatory will celebrate the 20th anniversary
of its famed Very Large Array (VLA), and in Green Bank, West Virginia,
officials will formally dedicate the new Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the
world’s largest fully-steerable dish antenna.

The New Mexico event, on Aug. 23, will mark 20 years of scientific
achievement by the VLA, the world’s most flexible and widely-used radio
telescope. U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, R-NM, and NSF Director Dr. Rita
Colwell will join officials of the observatory and of Associated Universities,
Inc. (AUI), which operates the observatory for the NSF, to celebrate the

Two days later, on Aug. 25, U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, D-WV, will join
Colwell and officials of NRAO and AUI to dedicate the NSF’s newest tool
for studying the universe — the giant, 16-million-pound GBT. With a
collecting dish covering more than two acres, the GBT will become one
of astronomy’s primary tools for exploring the distant universe.

“These two events mark an important week of celebration for us,” said Dr.
Paul Vanden Bout, NRAO’s Director. “As we look back over 20 years of landmark
discoveries by the VLA, we also look forward to the exciting discoveries to be
made by both the GBT and the VLA, which, in expanded form, will become an even
more valuable tool for research than it is today.”

The GBT is uniquely designed to detect extremely faint radio emissions from
the distant universe. Unlike most other radio telescopes, its entire surface
area is unblocked by auxiliary structures, and a laser-ranging system will
feed information to computers commanding actuators that will constantly adjust
the telescope’s aluminum reflecting panels to optimize its efficiency.
Scientists will use the GBT to study distant galaxies in the early universe,
the chemical composition of gas within galaxies, the birth processes of
stars and the nature of pulsars. In conjunction with other instruments, the
GBT will be used for radar mapping studies of planets and moons within the
Solar System.

The VLA has been used by more than 2200 researchers and has made important
discoveries in nearly every astronomical specialty, from studies of the Sun
and planets within the Solar System to young galaxies and quasars billions
of light-years away. Constructed in the 1970s, the VLA now is limited in
its capabilities by some of its original technologies. The NRAO has prepared
an expansion program that will replace the VLA’s aging technology with modern
equipment and increase its scientific capabilities tenfold. The Expanded VLA
will allow scientists to tackle important outstanding questions such as the
formation processes of stars and planets; the nature of black holes and the
phenomena surrounding them; and the nature of the early universe.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science
Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities,

For More Information:

VLA Event

GBT Event