Green Bank Telescope to receive upgrade to aid in study of Gravitational Waves

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Green Bank Observatory

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Astronomers from the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) have received new technologies to use on the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) for the next 3 years.

With a $2.3 million award from the Moore Foundation, the GBT will provide over 600 hours of observing time to monitor over 60 pulsars.

This will help NANOGrav to “directly detect extremely low-frequency gravitational waves from supermassive black hole binaries throughout the universe,” among other things related to neutron stars. The money came at just the right time due to the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory in December of last year.

“The loss of Arecibo was a huge blow to us in NANOGrav, and an even bigger blow to the island of Puerto Rico. This funding from the Moore Foundation is fantastic, as it helps to mitigate the loss of that telescope and guarantees that NANOGrav has the observing time it needs to hopefully nail down a detection of gravitational waves very soon,” said Chair of NANOGrav, Scott Ransom, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Using a new Ultra Wideband (UWB) receiver will allow scientists to operate at the best frequencies for observing pulsars. The improved data will also aid in such ventures as “seeking out subtle effects from Einstein’s general relativity” and “provide new insight into fast radio bursts and other radio transients.”

“I’m really excited to get the new receiver on the telescope.  Because it works over a much wider range of wavelengths at the same time, it’s like using two GBTs simultaneously to make our observations,” Ransom said.

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