Facilities > GBT > Visitor Facilities and Policies

Visitor Facilities and Policies

by Karen ONeil last modified Jul 09, 2015 by David Frayer
Summary of Green Bank visitor facilities and policies

NRAO Visitor Resources

1. Observing Facilities, Opportunities and Responsibilities

The NRAO operates the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), a 100 m fully-steerable radio telescope at the Green Bank facility. A full complement of radio receivers suitable for both line and continuum work are available from frequencies as low as 290 MHz to as high as 100 GHz, and eventually to 115 GHz. A summary of the technical characteristics of the telescope and receivers appears in the Short Guide to the GBT. The GBT is operated from the Jansky Laboratory in Green Bank. On-line networked computers and display devices are provided at the Jansky Lab Control Room for the astronomer to use for real-time data reduction. Software reduction packages for these computers are provided and maintained by the NRAO staff. New software packages are continuously being developed. Green Bank is connected to the Internet through two, T1 lines.

The NRAO Green Bank facilities are available to all qualified astronomers. The procedure for submitting proposals to the NRAO, and the mechanics of the evaluation and approval of these proposals, are outlined below.

Once scheduled on the telescope, the principal investigator has the responsibility for proper supervision of all aspects of the observing program. The Observatory staff endeavors to provide access to accurate calibration values, tables, and recommended techniques. Confirmation and proper application of data calibration techniques and overall confirmation of data quality is the sole responsibility of the observers. Please budget time for consultations with the staff and for calibration, pointing, and data quality checks during the observing run to ensure that the data will meet your scientific goals. For this reason it is the preference of the NRAO that, except for VLBI observations, the principal investigator or one of his collaborators be in residence during the observations to supervise the program. If the principal investigator cannot be in residence during a significant portion of the observing period, suitable arrangements should be made well in advance of the observations. In general, Observatory staff members cannot be responsible for visitors' programs unless arrangements to the contrary have been made in advance.

All visitors should be aware that radio emissions from common devices such as cell phones, portable computers and other appliances can be detrimental to the on-going observations with the GBT. There are some restrictions on the use of such devices on the NRAO property.

2. Proposals for Observations

The GBT is scheduled on a semester system (as with the VLA and VLBA).  Details on the scheduling are online at https://science.nrao.edu/observing/peta

3. Logistics of Observing at Green Bank

A. The Green Bank Organization

The following individuals should be contacted when questions arise in their areas of responsibility:

Karen O'Neil (x2222) Assistant Director, NRAO / Site Director Green Bank, in charge of the site and scientific operation of the GBT.

Toney Minter (x2275) Head of GBT Science Operations, in charge of proposal scheduling, coordinates observer facilities, coordinates all astronomical support.

Mike Holstine (x2231) GB Business Manager; responsible for Green Bank business management and administrative services.

Jessica Taylor (x2227) Office Services Asst., arranges transportation, residence hall housing and cafeteria services.


B. Travel to Green Bank

TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS: In principle, observers may use a number of area airports for their travel to Green Bank. These include Washington Dulles, Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, Roanoke (Va.), or Charleston (WVa). In addition, limited AMTRACK train service is available to Charlottesville and White Sulphur Springs, WVa. Rental cars are available at most of the airports. The Observatory can also send a driver for pickup at any of these airports or stations for a modest charge. It is most convenient if visitors can make travel plans and connections to Charlottesville whenever possible.

SITE TRANSPORTATION: GBT observations are conducted from the Control Room in the Jansky Lab, located on the main business campus of the Green Bank site and just across the road from the Residence Hall and Cafeteria. In general, observers will have no need for transportation on site. Should the need arise, however, bicycles are available onsite for use.

TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT FOR OBSERVING RUNS AND DATA REDUCTION SESSIONS: For each observing program scheduled on an NRAO telescope, reimbursement may be requested for one U.S. investigator to travel to the NRAO to observe, and for one U.S. investigator to travel to the NRAO to reduce data. Reimbursement may be requested for a second U.S. investigator to either observe or reduce data provided the second investigator is a graduate or undergraduate student. The NRAO will in some cases provide travel support to the Observatory for research on archival data. Costs of lodging in NRAO facilities can be waived on request in advance and on approval of the relevant site director. No reimbursement will be made for ground transportation or meals

To be eligible for this reimbursement, astronomers should obtain travel authorization from  Karen O'Neil (Green Bank Site Director, Room 107, Jansky Addition.)   Original ticket receipts must be submitted with the travel authorization form to the fiscal division in Green Bank for reimbursement.

Other questions regarding the travel policy may be addressed to Mike Holstine (x2231, Room 102, Jansky Addition.).

C. Green Bank Housing

RESIDENCE HALL: The NRAO operates a residence hall where astronomers may stay while observing or reducing data after completion of their observations. Single rooms (2 beds) are available as single or double occupancy, and students  attending a degree conferring college or university and coming to Green Bank to use the telescope pay a discounted rate. In addition, there are four one-bedroom apartments with equipped kitchens which the astronomer may occupy at $78.90 (+ tax) per day. Cribs, high chairs, and fold-up beds are also available. As noted above, costs of lodging in NRAO facilities can be waived on request in advance and on approval of the Site Director, Karen O'Neil.

SINGLE-FAMILY HOUSES: The NRAO maintains a few 3- and 4-bedroom furnished houses on the observatory property which are available from time to time for astronomers wishing to come to Green Bank with their families for extended periods.

RESERVATIONS: Housing reservations may be made by through the NRAO reservations system – https://bos.nrao.edu.

BILLING: Payment for lodging expenses should be made, if possible, prior to departure to Jessica Taylor in Room 112 of the Jansky Laboratory between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

CHECKOUT: 11:00 a.m. Please drop key in the key return box in the Jansky laboratory.

BED AND BATH LINEN: The Residence Hall rooms will be made-up prior to check-in and will be provided with adequate towels, wash cloths, soap, etc. For residents staying a week or more, rooms will be cleaned and linens changed once per week.

PERSONAL LAUNDRY: A washer and dryer are available for Residence Hall guests at the north end of the basement. Laundry detergent is provided.

LOUNGE: The lounge is intended for use of Residence Hall guests only.

EXERCISE AND RECREATION ROOMS: An exercise room with a number of exercise devices, including treadmills, stationary bicycles, stair-steppers, weight machine, and free weights are available for use by Observatory visitors. The Exercise Room is located in the basement of the Residence Hall. In addition, a recreation room with a pool table and air hockey table is also located in the basement.

SITE ACCESS: Observatory visitors are welcome to tour the site by foot. Please stay on the paved roads and do not go underneath any of the telescopes. Please return to the main campus area at the east end of the site by dark.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Further information is available by contacting Jessica Taylor (304-456-2227).


D. Cafeteria Meal Hours

The site cafeteria, located on the south end of the Residence Hall, is open for business at the following times:




Monday - Friday

7:30 - 9:30 a.m.

12:00 - 1:00 p.m.

Cafeteria closed all other hours!


(1) A self-service coffee room is available in the basement of the Jansky Lab (turn left at the base of the stairs) and in the Operations Canteen on the second floor of the Jansky Lab Addition, near the Control Room..

(2) Residence Hall guests may purchase essential grocery items in the Residence Hall Lounge Kitchenette at any time.

(3) Residence Hall guests may order special items for consumption during periods when the cafeteria is closed. Pre-order forms are available from the cafeteria. Orders must be placed by 4:00 p.m. Monday - Friday. These items will be identified for the guest and placed in the refrigerator in the lounge.

(4) The Starlight Cafe in the Science Center is open from 11 a.m - 6 p.m., Thursday thru Monday before Memorial Day and 11 a.m - 7 p.m., daily after Memorial Day.

E. Telephone

Local Calls: dial 9 and the 7-digit number.

Long Distance: dial 9 and 7- or 10-digit number.

It is not necessary to dial a 1. The site operator (Dial 0) located in Room 112 of the Jansky Addition (Mon.-Fri. 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Can provide assistance and directories.

Business Calls: Observers and other official visitors to the site may use the telephone facilities for legitimate calls in connection with NRAO business, within reason. Personal calls should be paid by the visitor (see below).

Personal Long Distance Calls: All commercial long distance calls should be paid by the visitor. There are two ways to do this: (1) use a personal telephone credit card (such as AT&T, MCI, SPRINT, etc.); (2) use a pre-paid telephone calling card. Pre-paid cards are available for purchase at the Reception Desk at the Jansky Lab. Please do not make direct-dialed long distance calls for personal business, if at all possible.

F. Green Bank Book Collection

An up-to-date collection of major astronomical journals is available in the Jansky Laboratory. In addition, a set of the National Geographic Society and Palomar Observatory Sky Survey prints is available for visitors and staff use.

G. Green Bank Data

The Observatory will archive and save all data from the GBT, with the possible exception of very large data volumes or data from user-supplied backends. These archives will be stored in a safe location and will be available for backup copies should they be needed at some point.

H. Data Proprietary Period: Following NRAO policy, observers have proprietary rights to the data for 12 months following the final observing session of their program. At the conclusion of this proprietary period, the data will be available from the NRAO Archive for reduction by others, upon their request. Those wishing to use data from the archive are encouraged to contact the original observers to ensure that any special issues concerning the data are understood. While this contact is encouraged, it is not required, and observers should be aware that the data will be in the public domain and subject to open use after 12 months.

4. Observing

INSTRUMENTATION/SOFTWARE: Visitors who require special hardware or software configurations for their projects must make their requests at the time the proposal is submitted. Requests for non-standard facilities or capabilities will be considered in light of feasibility, priorities, project schedules, etc. Observers will be notified of the outcome when the results from the Scheduling Committee are distributed. Last minute requests for non-standard capabilities cannot be granted, in general.

PROPRIETY: Each observer is scheduled on the telescope with the understanding that he or she is to pursue only the program described in his observing request. Since we have many observers from various institutions working on related programs, we require that any observer wishing to change his program, or to exchange time with other observers, do so only with the consent of the Site Director and Telescope Scheduler.

OBSERVER COMMENTS: In an effort to improve our facilities and service, we request that observers completing their observations provide us with a brief summary of their observations, and remarks about any difficulties they encountered. An on-line form for Observer Comments is available athttp://www.gb.nrao.edu/php/obscom/obscomments.php. These remarks are usually distributed to a number of staff and managers, and are usually not kept confidential. Confidential remarks should be made to the Site Director or NRAO Director.

NEWSLETTER: The Observatory publishes a newsletter containing useful information about developments and the current status of the Observatory, including systems at Green Bank, Charlottesville, Tucson, and Socorro. If you have an interesting scientific result to contribute to the Newsletter, please contact Karen O'Neil or Toney Minter.

USER MANUALS: Several user manuals are available which describe in detail the telescope control, data acquisition and data reduction programs that are implemented in Green Bank. These are available on-line include

GBTIDL Documentation

GBT Observers Manual

OBSERVER ASSISTANCE: Each observing program will be assigned a "friend" from among the staff scientists. You will be notified of who your friend is prior to your observing run by the Head of GBT Science Operations. The friend will serve as your contact person both before, during, and after your run for all scientific and technical issues. Additionally the GBT has an on-duty support scientist available 24 hours a day.  Through arrangement with your project friends, the on-duty support scientist can generally be available at the start of your run to assist in initial setup, and can be available as required during the course of the run. The friend (or in her absence the Head of GBT Science Operations) will coordinate assistance from others on the technical or scientific staff whose assistance or expertise may be needed.


5. Publication of Results

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Whenever a significant portion of research was done, or observational material taken, at the NRAO, we request that the author include a footnote in the text where the Observatory is mentioned:

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

PAGE CHARGE REIMBURSEMENT:   As of January 01, 2014, NRAO no longer supports pages charges for observations taken with the GBT.