Green Bank Observatory – A tour of telescopes and much more!

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Green Bank Observatory
The Rhodes family explores Green Bank Observatory!

Can you believe that a place exists, deep in the heart of West Virginia, where you won’t find any cell signal? No wi-fi, no cordless phones, no Bluetooth, not even a microwave. Green Bank Observatory located in Pocahontas County is something we have heard about our entire lives, but neither one of us have ever seen. When camping at Watoga State Park recently, we decided to make the short drive over and check it out!

Living in WV, we often see pictures and hear stories of Green Bank Observatory. People tell you how big it is, they show you pictures, but until you enter the grounds you really cannot imagine just how massive this thing is. If you zoom in reeeeeeeal close, you can see Alex and Zach standing under the telescope.

Green Bank Telescope
Alex and Zach posing in front of the Green Bank Telescope

Green Bank Observatory Telescope Tour

You can choose to take the self-guided tour and walk/bike the 3-mile loop or you can take a guided tour on a bus. We decided to take the tour ourselves; we wanted to go at our own pace and get to observe as much as we liked. Exploring the telescopes of the past and those still in operation is a very insightful and unique experience.

They save the best and biggest telescope for last, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope. The GBT is the world’s largest steerable radio telescope! It stands 485 feet tall and weighs 17 million pounds, large enough to fit an entire football stadium inside the dish and so powerful that it can pick up the energy given off by a single snowflake hitting the ground. An impressive sight to see for sure.

Exploring the Science Center

Seeing the telescopes was awesome but truly, the Science Center was the highlight of our trip. It has a gift shop, small restaurant, a touring wing, and educational discovery section. The discovery section is full of tools used to listen to our universe, guiding young and old alike through how the process of radio astronomy was created and is used to map and listen to our universe.  We love the discovery section and found it fun and educational to learn through their exhibits.  There is also a model of the GBT with a joystick that allows you to control the model’s movements.

Science Center
Science Center Fun

Getting to see the excitement on all of the kid’s faces as they tested and played at each station was amazing.  Leo spent most of his time running after his big brothers, but he especially loved the wavelength exhibit. Even the older two were thoroughly impressed and entertained.  It was a tremendous educational experience, and they just felt like they were playing!

It was such an enjoyable experience; we are already looking forward to our next trip.  If you are ever in or near Pocahontas County, West Virginia, I suggest you stop by the Green Bank Observatory. I would even make a special trip just to see it!  It indeed is a fantastic experience.

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