The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

July 8, 2013

Leaders meet with NRAO stakeholders

GREEN BANK — Sen. Jay Rockefeller last week convened a high-level meeting, along with Congressman Nick Rahall, at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, amid potential new developments about the facility’s future.

West Virginia University has recently expressed interest in exploring a minority management role in the Green Bank Observatory. “The Green Bank Observatory is more than a hub of world-class scientific research — it’s a source of enormous and lasting pride for the people of West Virginia,” said Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “Simply put, it’s a state treasure. And we’ll fight tirelessly to keep it open — and keep it strong.”

Last year, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee recommended that the NSF divest from the Green Bank Observatory over the next five years. The NSF said it will not act on that recommendation until the end of this year.

Since then, Rockefeller, Rahall and Sen. Joe Manchin have led efforts to investigate all possible options to maintain the Green Bank’s operations well into the future.

“I am glad that WVU has stepped forward and is committed to building a strong partnership with the observatory. We must explore all options in maintaining operations at the Green Bank facility and I will certainly continue to emphasize the importance of the observatory to our community, our children, and our nation’s scientific endeavors,” said Rahall.

“One thing is clear: West Virginia has one of the best telescopes in the world right here on our soil, and we are proud of the science and research that takes place at the observatory every day,” said Manchin. “I am encouraged to work with our senior Senator Jay Rockefeller and Congressman Nick Rahall in fighting to keep this facility open by finding budget solutions that trim fat without cutting vital programs like our state-of-the-art Green Bank Observatory.”

In recent weeks, WVU discussed a potential minority partnership in the facility, which would allow university researchers to expand upon their astronomy research and education.

“West Virginia University is committed to building a strong partnership with the Green Bank Observatory based upon several WVU faculty hires over the last several years,” said Fred King, vice president of research at West Virginia University. “The university is committed to be an international leader in radio astronomy. We see a continued strong relationship with NRAO and the Green Bank Observatory as a key part of our international leadership.”

Rockefeller, whose Commerce Committee oversees the NSF, called on officials there and those at WVU, NRAO and Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), to meet with him in Green Bank to explore potential partnerships that could ultimately result in a positive outcome for Green Bank and the Pocahontas County region. AUI manages the Green Bank Observatory for the NSF.