Help Save an Observatory!

Contributed by
May 8, 2005

Astronomy is one of the few sciences where old equipment is still useful. I used a telescope built in 1885 in a class in grad school, for example (and it's still one of the best instruments I've ever used). I saw the scars from a comet impact on Jupiter on another hundred-year-old 'scope. I recently toured a radio observatory in Australia used to track the Apollo 11 landing.

And now one such venerable site is in danger of being torn down. The Bracewell Radio Observatory in California is owned by Stanford University. It was shut down due to lack of funds many years ago, but more recently a fire inspection showed that there is too much underbrush and combustible materials around it. In California, this is a very serious affair, because in the summer wildfires can rage out of control.

The folks at Stanford inspected the facility themselves, and found the equipment to be in good working order. They decided they want to re-open the facility, and use it to teach the public about radio astronomy, and to let amateur radio astronomers use it. As a public outreach guy myself, I think this is a fine idea.

So they have mounted a rescue effort to save the array. If you want to help, take a look at their web page and see what you can do. But hurry! The decision on what to do with the site will be made on June 30, 2005. I'll post updates here as I find out about them.

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