GREEN BANK, W.Va. – A month-long series of special events marks the 50th anniversary for the first modern Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) in the quest for ET. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank in Pocahontas County includes special programs every Saturday in September as well as close encounters with five of West Virginia’s popular state park areas as part of the Drake Equation Passport adventure available the entire month.
Are we alone? Is anyone out there? These questions have intrigued mankind for centuries, but it wasn't until 1960 that modern technology was applied in seeking the answers. In that year, Dr. Frank Drake, a young astronomer at the NRAO, used an 85-foot-diameter radio telescope at Green Bank to look for intelligent signals from a pair of nearby Sun-like stars. He didn't find any such signals, but the quest continues today at telescopes around the world.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Drake's Project Ozma, the NRAO is hosting a series of events that focuses on both the fun and the science of seeking evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations. Every Saturday in September the observatory will have special programs for families, students and people of all ages. The website www.searchforet.org provides details and times of special programs at the observatory.
Throughout the entire month, the public can participate in the Drake Equation Passport adventure. Visitors may pick up a Drake Equation Passport at Green Bank Science Center, Route 92/28 in Green Bank (304-456-2150), the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, 708 Second Avenue, Marlinton, W.Va. 800-336-7009, or print a copy at home from the NRAO website. The passport identifies nine attractions and businesses as stops that will stamp the passport document and also identifies the geo-cache sites in Pocahontas County. Visitors earn a prize when they receive stamps from seven participating locations on their passport, and are then eligible to enter a grand prize drawing to be awarded on Sept. 25. The passport, adventure map, events and details are available on www.searchforet.org
The special geo-cache sites include five West Virginia State Parks and Forests: Cass Scenic Railroad, Droop Mountain Battlefield, Watoga state parks, The Greenbrier River Trail and Seneca State Forest. Geocaches placed at West Virginia’s state parks and forests that are part of the Drake Equation Passport are also listed on www.wvstateparks.com, “Geocaching,” and placed with permission. However, to participate in the Drake Equation, cachers will need to have a passport to be part of this September-only adventure.
Drake's 1960 project used the first radio telescope that was operational at the Green Bank observatory. That telescope was followed by numerous others, culminating in the giant Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the largest fully-steerable radio telescope in the world. Dedicated in 2000, the GBT now is one of the world's leading facilities for studying the fundamental physics and chemistry of the Universe.
The Green Bank observatory also conducts highly-acclaimed educational programs for students and teachers, and hosts thousands of visitors every year. Fall hours are Tuesday after Labor Day through October, open Thursday - Monday 8:30 AM - 7 p.m. with special activities.
For event information and Drake Equation Passport Adventure details and September events at NRAO, visit the event website at: www.searchforet.org, or call 304-456-2150.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.
Many state parks and forests are offering September camping and cabin rental discounts making a visit to the area in September more affordable. The West Virginia State Park system is a section within the WV Division of Natural Resources. For information about West Virginia State Parks and Forests, visit www.wvstateparks.com
Cara Rose or Miranda Vance
304-456-2164 or 304-558-2764