Eleven students accompanied several MVGS teachers to the National Radio Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia before the beginning of the official school year. Students spent several days prior to the trip engaging in a crash course on the principles behind radio astronomy.
The group could not have chosen a more perfect weekend for a trip into a beautiful part of West Virginia. After a lovely drive the group enjoyed a tour of the many radio telescopes on the campus of the observatory, and then began learning from the Green Bank staff how to use the 40 ft. telescope with which they would conduct their research.
After agreeing on a research question for the evening, students selected shifts to run the telescope throughout the evening as they observed hydrogen emissions from gas pockets in the Milky Way. Students then patiently waited for three hours for the Milky Way to rise in the sky high enough to be observable with the telescope. Students engaged in recreational activities such as bike riding, ultimate Frisbee, board games, etc. while they waited for the heavens to align. In addition, the LaMonica’s brought their optical telescope and the students enjoyed spectacular views of several planets, the Moon, and even a galaxy or two.
Finally, the Milky Way began its trek across the sky and students began a record-breaking data collection spree, exhausting the lab’s supply of chart paper for the pen recorder. After a long night of data collection, students met with the Green Bank staff to discuss their data and draw conclusions.
The group was then treated with an opportunity to visit the control room of the GBT (the largest radio telescope on the campus) and spend some time talking with an astronomer in the midst of data collection. It was with reluctance that students were finally convinced to load up the county cars and head back to Virginia. It was an awesome trip, and we look forward to doing it again next year. Be sure to check out the pictures on the MVGS picture site.
Authored by Allen Burton