CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s congressional delegation is expressing concern over the likelihood of significantly diminished federal funding for the Green Bank Observatory.

They’re also expressing support for identifying alternative funding to keep Green Bank listening to the stars.

Shelley Moore Capito

“The Green Bank Observatory is a national treasure that helps to foster discovery and inspire future generations to pursue science,” stated Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

“As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have supported its continued operations and worked with the National Science Foundation every step of the way as this study was being developed. I will continue to advocate for Green Bank, the talented scientists who work there, and the students it inspires.”

Reduced federal funding has been in the outlook for the Green Bank Observatory for several years.

In 2012, the National Science Foundation provided 95 percent of its funding.

That year an arm of the agency identified the need to divest itself of several facilities, including the Green Bank Telescope — couching some really bad news with an introductory compliment.

‘‘The GBT is the world’s most sensitive single-dish radio telescope at wavelengths shorter than 10 cm; however, its capabilities are not as critical to New World New Horizons [astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey] science goals as the higher ranked facilities.’’

Last year, the National Science finished a feasibility study to figure out options for significantly decreased or eliminated funding.

What’s straight ahead is a federally-mandated part of the process to evaluate potential environmental impacts associated with proposed changes.

MORE: Read the draft environmental impact statement for potential changes to Green Bank Observatory funding.

The National Science Foundation announced it will host a public meeting Nov. 30 to discuss its recommendations with the local community. The meeting will be from 5 to 8:30 p.m. that day at the Green Bank Science Center, 155 Observatory Road in Pocahontas County.

Evan Jenkins

“As Green Bank advances our understanding of our universe, there is still a role for the National Science Foundation and federal funding to play,” stated Congressman Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.

“I strongly support Green Bank and its employees and urge the NSF not to give up on this critical resource. I am working closely with the agency and interested parties to preserve the Green Bank Observatory as an educational and scientific resource for West Virginians.”

Green Bank includes a 100-meter diameter single-dish radio telescope, instrumentation for astronomy and astrophysics, office and laboratory buildings, a visitor and education facility and lodging facilities for visiting scientists. It has about 100 year-round employees and 50,000 annual visitors.

The alternative preferred by the agency is collaboration with interested parties for continued science- and education-focused operations with reduced funding from the National Science Foundation.

Other options include:

  • Collaboration with interested parties for operation as a technology and education park.
  • Mothballing of the facilities, which would mean suspension of operations so that operations could resume efficiently at some future date.
  • Demolition and site restoration.
  • No action at all, which would mean continued National Science Foundation investment.

The National Science Foundation will accept public comments on the draft report for the next 60 days. Comments may be emailed to envcomp-AST-greenbank@nsf.gov, with the subject line Green Bank Observatory. Letters mail also be mailed to the NSF via Ms. Elizabeth Pentecost, RE: Green Bank Observatory, 2415 Eisenhower Ave., Suite W9152, Alexandria, Va. 22314

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