first_imgU.S. radio telescopes are going off the air as a result of the government shutdown. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is turning off its three U.S.-based facilities today because of a lack of funds, although it will be able to continue supporting a fourth international telescope based in Chile for a short while longer.“We’re really at a dead halt,” NRAO Director Anthony Beasley tells ScienceInsider from the group’s headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Some 385 NRAO staff members are being sent home, with about 90 remaining to look after sensitive equipment. Overall, it costs about $150,000 per day to keep the observatories running, Beasley estimates.NRAO, largely funded by the National Science Foundation, is a coalition of universities that operates four facilities that collect electromagnetic signals from space:The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia, the world’s most sensitive single-dish radio telescope;The Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), a 27-telescope array in New Mexico heavily used by astronomers;The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a 10-telescope array spread across more than 8600 kilometers from Hawaii to the Virgin Islands that is used for high-resolution astronomy; andThe Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an observatory in Chile run in partnership with Europe, Japan, and Chile.Several thousand researchers use data from the telescopes to explore a wide range of questions, including how stars and galaxies behave and how the universe formed. A few hundred astronomers are especially heavy users, Beasley says.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Now, the GBT, VLA, and VLBA are all going offline, Beasley says. NRAO’s ALMA operations will continue “for another 3 or 4 weeks,” he says. “We have some additional resources in the bank in Chile.”Although the shutdown began on 1 October, NRAO was able to stay open until today because it had some funding left over from the 2013 fiscal year, which ended on 30 September. “We were able to cruise out for a couple of days from the shutdown, but we couldn’t keep going,” Beasley says.Shutting down the telescopes “isn’t as easy as flicking a switch,” he says. And the skeleton crew will be responsible for maintaining some sensitive parts, including cryogenically cooled electronics. If the shutdown goes into November, however, the telescopes could be in trouble. “This is a very difficult situation,” Beasley says, especially if it gets to the point where NRAO can’t pay its electric bills.You can see our complete shutdown coverage here.last_img

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