Science students get stars in their eyes
The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, built in 2000 and named for the late West Virginia senator, is the world's largest fully steerable telescope. Its 100-meter-wide surface area gives it the ability to pick up extremely faint signals from the distant reaches of space. But in 2007, the 16-million-pound telescope was frozen in position. For 2 1/2 months, the telescope recorded data from 70,000 "pointings" that no astronomer had asked for. It would have been a shame to waste it. That's when scientists at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and West Virginia University conceived the Pulsar Search Collaboratory, and ITEST project, and started recruiting students to scan this unwanted trove of data. The scientists get research help; the students get real-world experience about how astronomy works.