Sunday, December 4, 2016

Save The Green Bank Observatory

The mighty Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County symbolizes the best of West Virginia.

Radio astronomers from around the world search the universe through its giant dishes, working both on-site and from faraway locations. Brilliant students of the National Youth Science Camp get summer training there. Thousands of visitors and schoolchildren tour it.

Now the observatory’s fate is uncertain, because the National Science Foundation may halt funding for the facility. The future is in limbo.

Sen. Joe Manchin has urged the NSF to extend support because “our scientists must have access to the best equipment in the world.”

He also said the observatory “continues to drive world-class research in many fields including physics, chemistry, astronomy, planetary studies and STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math).”

Manchin added that the observatory “engaged more than 100 teachers and 2,000 high school students through the Pulsar Search Collaboratory in analyzing more than 2.5 million pieces of data” in a hunt for neutron stars.

Finally, he noted that the dish facility contributes $30 million to the regional economy, with 100 full-time employees and 40 summer workers. It draws 50,000 visitors, teachers and students yearly.

Sen. Shelley Capito and Rep. Evan Jenkins also are trying to help save the observatory.

This great science center needs to be sustained. Other West Virginia leaders should join the struggle on its behalf. Maybe Mountain State native Dr. Rush Holt, a former Congress member who now heads the American Association for the Advancement of Science, could lend support.

It will be sad if the magnificent facility dwindles to neglect, or is removed entirely.

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