50th Anniversary Celebration of the 140′ Radio Telescope at Green Bank WV

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The 140′ Radio Telescope at Green Bank, WV. Image NRAO
NRAO 140-foot radio telescope at Green Bank, WV.

We want to explore the history of the 140′ Radio Telescope…

Sometimes people are honored for their achievements in the sciences. On Tuesday, October 13, 2015, a most interesting object was recognized for its groundbreaking exploration in the field of astrochemistry. It is the 140′ Radio Telescope completed in December of 1964.

It is owned and operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) located in Green Bank, West Virginia. As a retiree of the Charlottesville, Virginia Central Development Lab, I was invited. It was an invitation I heartily accepted.

Official Statement

This NRAO public announcement of the event includes the proclamation by the Governor of West Virginia of the historical importance of the telescope. Included on the web page is a description of the pioneer endeavors to which the scope was put. Clearly among the most important uses was the study of the chemistry of space – astrochemistry.

Although many theories are proposed based on the makeup of the universe, the telescope itself reveals only the facts. It provides data, plain and simple.

My son and I attended. I wanted to reminisce, to see the scope I’d only viewed photos of, and to reflect upon the history.

The Celebration Agenda 140′ Radio Telescope

The agenda of the event occupied the hours of 11:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.


11:00 – 11:45     The History of the 140′ Telescope (two talks)


12:30 – 1:15       Tour the 140′, explore the photo exhibit, donate interesting objects for a new “time capsule.”

1:30 – 2:15         Group photo in front of the 140′ telescope

         Read state proclamation acknowledging its place in history

         Open the 300′ telescope’s time capsule

2:15 – 2:45         Return (to Jansky Lab and to Science Center)

2:45 – 3:30         Showing of two films, including Making of the 140′ Telescope (The second film is presented here as a video).

Our Arrival

The trip from Lovingston, Virginia to Green Bank, West Virginia was mapped out and timing provided. It took longer than it was supposed to due to driving errors, road repair, and necessary stops. My son and I arrived 20 minutes before the end of the talks. The final speaker showed slides. He referred to a now deceased individual I chauffeured on occasion.


The majority of attendees were retirees – many of whom had been involved in the development, maintenance, and use of the 140′ Radio Telescope. One of the men with whom I spoke during the lunch break had been a mechanic assigned to the telescope for 33 years.

He spoke of the association with feeling. He spoke in a way that reminded me of a mother tending a sick child. He said he could tell if there was a problem with the scope by listening to its pumps and motors.

Familiar Faces

There were familiar faces for me, though surprisingly few. It was probably because I was a newcomer, having been employed by the observatory only since 1982. We enjoyed our pork barbecue sandwich, baked beans, and potato salad. The snacks were good also – the coffee, cheese, herb crackers, and brownies.

Among the few I did see (whom I knew from Charlottesville’s branch) were my immediate supervisor, the personnel director, the business director, and the two observatory librarians. They all looked so good and it was great to see them smiling and in good health.

All Good Things

It was a day my son and I will not soon forget. It was a day of education, a day of entertainment. It was beautiful to boot. The temperature was mild, the weather fair, and it was the peak of the fall colors in a most “wild [and] wonderful, West Virginia.

Brief Videos by the Author:


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