Aliens? The ‘Area 51’ you can actually go inside

ET phone Green Bank: This real alien contact site is right out of a sci-fi novel!

There’s a surreal sight among Pocahontas County’s rolling farmlands: a giant, space-age telescope peeking out from behind a barn.

Yep, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is a sight to behold. It’s the world’s largest fully steerable single-dish radio telescope and also the world’s largest movable land object!

The world’s first search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) began here in 1960.

Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, WVThe 300-foot telescope at Green Bank Observatory’s Green Bank Science Center is one of 2 telescopes in the U.S. involved in Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million 10-year-long international search, scanning 1 million stars and 100 galaxies for signs of intelligent life.

Now you can get an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at Green Bank’s ongoing role in the SETI effort. Visit the control room of the 85-1 Telescope where radio astronomer Frank Drake launched humanity’s first search for interstellar radio transmissions in 1960. Called Project Ozma after the queen of L. Frank Baum’s imaginary Land of Oz, the search focused on the stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani, which are about 11 light years from Earth.

The tour also includes the 140-foot telescope control room where Project Phoenix (1995-2004) recorded observations of some 800 stars to a distance of 240 light years.

At the end of the tour, Green Bank Observatory staff will greet you in the Drake Lounge to talk about the future of SETI and Breakthrough Listen’s role in it.

Tours fill up fast, so sign up now! You’ll need to make reservations and get screenings at least 48 hours in advance. Kids must be at least 12.

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This post was last updated on March 16, 2022