Any device that generates electromagnetic radiation -- a cell phone, a television, or a wireless Internet router, for example -- is not permitted in the tiny town of Green Bank, West Virginia. That’s because the nearby Green Bank Telescope, with a dish the size of a football field, is busy scanning the cosmos for pulsars, gas clouds, and distant galaxies. The 143 people who reside in Green Bank must, by law, live without the gadgets that most Americans take for granted.
Green Bank is located in the National Radio Quiet Zone -- 13,000 square miles (33,670 square km) of countryside that includes portions of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. Restrictions began in the 1950s, when the Federal Communications Commission created the zone.
Life as it used to be, before technology:
- The Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope, and one of the biggest movable objects anywhere on land. It's nearly 500 feet (152 m) tall.
- Scientists at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which operates the GBT, can't even use a microwave to heat up their lunch.
- Astronomers first aimed the GBT at the stars in 2000. One of its many discoveries is that the Milky Way galaxy is actually part of a cluster of galaxies 500 million light years in diameter, with a mass equivalent to about 100 million billion Suns.