Whether you are a science buff or love to visit unique places, Green Bank, West Virginia's National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is a must-see attraction. The observatory's Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope is the largest completely steerable radio telescope on Earth, and it defies description. You can take a tour of the complex, see the behemoth telescope and spend time in the Science Center learning about radio astronomy. Special tours and events are also available.
NRAO Green Bank is located in Pocahontas County, W. Va., on state route 92/28. The only way to get there is to drive. While the roads are in very good condition, you will be driving in the mountains; expect curves and steep grades.
There are several ways to drive to the complex; NRAO Green Bank publishes a handy map with driving directions from several major cities. The parking lot is large enough to hold RVs and tour buses.
Public tours cost $6 for adults and children ages 11 and up; $5 for seniors. Active duty military, veterans and children age 10 and under are free. Organized group tours must be arranged in advance.
Admission to the Exhibit Hall is free.
The observatory complex is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Tours are offered from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the top of the hour.
During the rest of the year, the complex is open Thursdays through Mondays. From the day after Labor Day to October 31, the observatory and museum are open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tours are offered from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the top of each hour. From November to the Friday before Memorial Day, you can visit from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tours are offered at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
NRAO Green Bank is closed on Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas Eve through December 27, New Year's Eve through January 3 and Easter Sunday. Inclement weather may lead to tour cancellations and / or science center closures. Contact NRAO for up-to-date information.
NRAO Address, Website, Email and Telephone Number
- National Radio Astronomy Observatory Green Bank
- Route 92/28
- Green Bank, WV
- (304) 456-2150
- Email for tour reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org
What to Expect
NRAO Green Bank is located in the National Radio Quiet Zone, so you may not use cell phones or other wireless electronic devices during your visit.
You may take pictures with a film camera anywhere, but you may not use a digital camera to photograph the telescopes.
The tour is conducted mainly by bus. Wheelchair users may not be able to take the entire tour.
Special events, including astronomy nights ("star parties"), family science labs, family running events, concerts, and planetarium shows, take place throughout the year.
Two special tours are offered by advance reservation only. The SETI tour, open to visitors age 12 and up, takes place on select Friday afternoons and costs $40. This tour focuses on the NRAO's participation in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program. The High-Tech tour, open to adults only, takes place on select Thursday afternoons and takes visitors into telescope control rooms and labs. This tour costs $15 per person.
The Starlight Café, a small snack bar and indoor eating area, is open daily from 11:00 a. m to 7:00 p. m., Thursdays through Mondays from 11:00 a. m. to 7:00 p. m. in the fall and Thursdays through Mondays from 11:00 a .m. to 6:00 p. m. the rest of the year.
You can buy souvenirs at NRAO Green Bank's gift shop.
About NRAO Green Bank
The flagship telescope at NRAO Green Bank is the enormous Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope. This amazing telescope has an observation surface that measures 100 meters by 110 meters (328 feet by 361) feet). It can be turned in any direction, allowing it to point at any area of the sky. The telescope weighs an astonishing 17 million pounds.
Visitors can take a narrated bus tour of the telescope area. The tour takes you into a wide green valley that is studded with telescopes of all sizes. As you drive toward the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, you will hear about the various groups that use the telescopes – everyone from college students to professional astronomers – all conducting research to enhance our knowledge of the universe.
Your tour also includes a film that explains the basics of radio astronomy and documents the history of Green Bank. Spend some time in the Science Center, which offers exhibits about radio astronomy, the telescopes at Green Bank and the significance of the research conducted there.