Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 12

NEWS NOTES
IN BRIEF

OBSERVATORIES

Green Bank Goes
Independent
OCTOBER 8TH marked the dawn of a
new era for the radio astronomy
observatory in Green Bank, West
Virginia. What was once the flagship
facility of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is now an
autonomous institution.
Green Bank's new independence
makes the best of a bad situation. For
the last 60 years, the National Science
Foundation (NSF) has funded the
observatory as part of the NRAO
network, which includes other facilities
in the United States and Chile. But in
2012, the NSF - trying to balance its
tightening budget (S&T: Dec. 2012,
p. 34) - decided to let Green Bank go.
This came as no small shock to the
folks at Green Bank, which is home
to the world's largest steerable, singledish radio telescope (pictured above).
Deprived of its primary source of funding, the observatory was scheduled to
shut down on October 1, 2016.
But Green Bank staff and the NSF
hammered out a plan to transform
the former national observatory into
an independent institution. Instead of
cutting Green Bank off completely in
2016, the NSF now plans to gradually
wean the observatory off federal funds.
In 2017, the NSF will grant Green Bank

12

60% of its previous annual budget,
which amounts to about $8 million.
In 2018, Green Bank can count on
$4 million. After that, the NSF makes
no promises of financial support. "We
know that they want to continue
funding us at some level, but we don't
know what that will be," says Michael
Holstine, Green Bank Observatory's
business manager.
To compensate for dwindling NSF
funds, Green Bank has signed contracts
with science initiatives that pay to make
observations with the 100-meter-wide
Green Bank Telescope (GBT). Major
partners so far include the Breakthrough Listen project (S&T: Nov. 2015,
p. 10), the North American NanoHertz
Observatory for Gravitational Waves,
and West Virginia University.
Under the new regime, day-to-day
operations at the observatory will
remain basically the same. What will
change is which research projects get
first dibs on observing time. Back when
the NSF bankrolled the observatory, any
researcher in the world could propose a
project using GBT, and those with the
best proposals got queued up for time
on the scope. Now, the Green Bank
Observatory has to prioritize its major
partners. "And when you sell dedicated
telescope time to individuals or specific
projects, that data is theirs to do with
what they would like," Holstine says.
■ MARIA TEMMING

F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 * SK Y & TELESCOPE

Two Novae in Sagittarius
Amateur Koichi Itagaki spotted a nova
above the Sagittarius Teapot on October
20th, using a 180-mm telephoto lens to
take sky-patrol photos. Within two days,
the explosion shot up three magnitudes
to be brighter than 8.0. That put it within
range of 50-mm binoculars. As of midNovember, its temporary name was TCP
J18102829-2729590. Meanwhile on October 25th, the ASAS-SN automated survey
and observer Yukio Sakurai turned up a
second, 9.7-magnitude nova in the same
region. It's designated ASASSN-16ma.
■ BOB KING
Read more about the novae at
https://is.gd/sagnova2016.

Jupiter Returns with
Stormy Surprise
Planetary observers were treated to an
outbreak this fall in Jupiter's North Temperate Belt (NTB). Using NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawai'i, Glenn Orton first
noticed the series of bright spots encircling
the planet on October 19th. Visually, the
outbreak appears as a series of dark spots
and festoons encircling the planet. John
Rogers (British Astronomical Association)
notes that this type of outbreak occurs
at roughly 5-year intervals, and this one
seems to have come on schedule.
■ SEAN WALKER
Learn more at https://is.gd/
jupiteroutburst2016.

Ewen A. Whitaker,
1922-2016
An amateur-turned-professional who
became one of the world's most renowned
lunar specialists has died at age 94.
Whitaker was a leader of the Lunar Section of the British Astronomical Association during the 1940s. In 1949 he was
hired by Greenwich Observatory, then later
recruited by Yerkes director Gerard Kuiper
to help create a series of lunar atlases.
A skilled lunar photographer, Whitaker
ultimately developed the best knowledge
of lunar geography of anyone alive. He
was also a humble, gentle, and practical
person, with a quiet sense of humor. His
book, Mapping and Naming the Moon: A
History of Lunar Cartography and Nomenclature, remains a standard reference.
■ CHARLES A. WOOD
Read the full obituary at

https://is.gd/whitakerobit.

NR AO / AUI / NSF

The 100-meter Robert C. Byrd
Green Bank Telescope (GBT)
is the world's largest fully
steerable radio telescope.


https://www.is.gd/sagnova2016 https://www.is.gd/jupiteroutburst2016 https://www.is.gd/jupiteroutburst2016 https://www.is.gd/whitakerobit

Sky and Telescope - February 2017

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Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - Cover1
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - Cover2
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 1
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - Contents
Sky and Telescope - February 2017 - 3
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