[Jansky at antenna]
NRAO/AUI image

[Reber telescope]
NRAO/AUI image

[85 foot Tatel telescope]
NRAO/AUI image

[300 foot telescope]
NRAO/AUI image

[140 foot telescope]
NRAO/AUI image

[Green Bank Interferometer]
NRAO/AUI image

[12 meter telescope]
NRAO/AUI image

NRAO/AUI image

[AIPS logo]
NRAO/AUI image

[VLBA antenna 1]
NRAO/AUI image

[Green Bank Telescope]
NRAO/AUI image

[ALMA antennas]
NRAO/AUI image

National Radio Astronomy Observatory Archives: NRAO Timeline

1933-1956 1957-1965 1966-1975 1976-1985 1986-1995 1996-


5 May 1933 Karl G. Jansky's detection of radio waves from the center of the Milky Way announced in a front page article in the New York Times.
Summer 1937 Grote Reber constructs first radio telescope in Wheaton IL; completed in September 1937.
  1940 Reber publishes Cosmic Static papers in Astrophysical Journal and Proceedings of the Institution of Radio Engineers.
  26-27 December 1953 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston includes review papers on radio astronomy.
  January 4-7 1954 Washington Conference on Radio Astronomy discusses status of radio astronomy in the U.S.
  3 May 1954 NSF establishes an Advisory Panel for Radio Astronomy.
  20 May 1954 Conference convened by AUI President Lloyd Berkner marks first formal association of AUI with the Radio Astronomy Project. Berkner proposes asking NSF for money; Ad Hoc committee established.
  26 July 1954 First meeting of the ad hoc committee. Berkner and R.M. Emberson present research proposal to be made to the NSF for a grant of $105,000 to support a feasibility study of a National Radio Astronomy Facility.
  13 January 1955 NSF advises AUI that $85,000 has been granted for purpose described in the proposal.
  8 February 1955 AUI receives funds granted on 13 January by NSF and begins active work. Emberson named Acting Director of project, ad hoc committee became Steering Committee. Search for site begins.
  28 May 1955 Steering Committee reviews specificatons for RFPs for 140ft telescope and larger (up to 600ft) telescope.
  11 October 1955 NSF advises AUI of a new $140,500 grant for the support of a program for the establishment of a radio astronomy facility.
  13 December 1955 After extensive review of sites, Steering Committee recommends Green Bank WV.
  March 1956 By end of March 1956 AUI has acquired purchase options, running for one year, covering 6,200 acres in the Green Bank valley. Total purchase price called for by options is $502,000.
  26 July 1956 NSF announces that it will proceed with the purchase of 5,000 acre site in Green Bank for a radio observatory. Congress has appropriated $3.5 million toward purchase of land, design and construction of 140ft telescope, and erection of necessary buildings.
  9 August 1956 West Virginia Radio Astronomy Zoning Act becomes first legislation in the world intended specifically to protect basic research
17 November 1956 Alan Waterman, Director of the NSF, and Lloyd Berkner, President of AUI, sign the NSF/AUI agreement establishing NRAO with AUI as the managing agency; Berkner becomes Acting Director of the NRAO.


  14 May 1957 Offices opened on Green Bank site with move of temporary AUI office from Marlinton WV.
17 October 1957 Dedication of Observatory in Green Bank.
  Summer 1958 12ft antenna begins observations. Construction begins on 85ft telescope and Calibration Horn Antenna, and on the Works Area building.
14 August 1958 Ground breaking for 140ft telescope.
16 October 1958 Dedication of the Howard E. Tatel 85ft telescope.
16 October 1958 Grote Reber arrives in Green Bank to oversee reassembly of his Wheaton antenna at the entrance to the Green Bank site.
  July 1959 Works Area building occupied, the first completed new building on the Green Bank site.
13 February 1959 First observations with Tatel 85ft telescope.
  1 July 1959 Otto Struve becomes first NRAO Director.
  October 1959 Residence Hall and Jansky Laboratory buildings completed and occupied in Green Bank. First observations made with Calibration Horn Antenna.
March 1960 Absolute flux measurements of Cas A begun with Calibration Horn Antenna.
  11 April 1960 Project OZMA, first observations.
  October 1960 300ft transit telescope concept chosen.
27 April 1961 Ground breaking for 300ft telescope.
  1 December 1961 Otto Struve resigns as Director. David S. Heeschen becomes Acting Director.
  17 December 1961 J.L. Pawsey appointed as Director, effective October 1, 1962; because of ill health he was unable to take up the position, and died on November 30, 1962.
March 1962 Observations begin with 40ft telescope.
  21 September 1962 Test observations begin with 300ft telescope.
1 October 1962 300ft telescope operational with continuum receivers for 750 and 1400 mc.
  19 October 1962 David S. Heeschen becomes Director.
  1962 Beginning of millimeter-wave radio astronomy at NRAO: Funding request for a telescope of ~30 feet in diameter made in 1962; request approved by NSF for inclusion in FY 1964 budget.
  1963 Panel on Astronomical Facilities of National Academy of Sciences, headed by A.E. Whitford meets with D.S. Heeschen.
  February 1964 Completion of 85-2 construction (cabling to connect 85-1 and 85-2 still to be done by NRAO) .
  1 June 1964 First observations with 2-element interferometer, fringes observed on 3C 273.
June 1964 Construction of Jansky antenna replica at entrance to GB site completed.
  2 December 1964 Excavation for new Charlottesville building begins.
  1964 Ground-Based Astronomy: A Ten-Year Program, report prepared by the Panel on Astronomical Facilities [Whitford Panel] for the Committee on Science and Public Policy of the National Academy of Sciences recommends what became the VLA: "A very large high-resolution pencil-beam array with low sidelobes to be constructed as a national facility."
February 1965 140ft telescope construction completed.
  11 February 1965 NSF gives final approval to locate 36ft telescope on Kitt Peak.
  May 1965 First observations with 140ft telescope made by S. von Hoerner, measuring occultations of radio sources by the moon at 234 and 405 Mc.
  June 1965 Foundation on Kitt Peak completed for 36ft telescope.
13 October 1965 Dedication of 140ft telescope in Green Bank.
  20 December 1965 NRAO takes occupancy of new building in Charlottesville. By the end of January 1966 the Director’s Office, library and part of the scientific staff will have transferred from Green Bank.


  26 May 1966 36ft reflector on Kitt Peak laid on its mounting.
  Fall 1966 VLA Design Group begins work.
  January 1967 Two-volume VLA proposal submitted to NSF. The third volume was added to the proposal in January 1969.
  May 1967 36ft telescope is turned over to NRAO by the manufacturer.
Spring 1967 Three element interferometer completed in Green Bank, enabling aperture synthesis observations.
  14 August 1967 NSF's Advisory Panel on Radio Astronomy Facilities (the Dicke panel) concluded it was too soon to decide on the exact form a very large array should take. The VLA proposal was promising, and the NRAO should concentrate "extensively on phase-coherent radio astronomical research at a resolution of 1 sec of arc or better to show conclusively the expected tremendous stride forward that should result from a very large array with this resolution."
January 1968 36ft telescope begins operation on Kitt Peak.
  June 1969 Dicke panel reconvenes; recommendations include beginning VLA construction.
  October 1969 NSF requests that Bureau of the Budget include $2M to initiate construction of the VLA. The request was received too late in the budget cycle and was not included.
  December 1969 Greenstein Committee advocates start of VLA in 1971.
  9 June 1970 Resurfacing of 300ft telescope begins in Green Bank.
  1 July 1970 Publication of paper on detection of interstellar carbon monoxide (CO) with 36ft telescope: Wilson, Jefferts, & Penzias, ApJ 161, p. L43.
  Spring 1971 Greenstein Committee final report names VLA as its highest priority.
  1972 Publication of Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 1970's, vol. 1: Report of the Astronomy Survey Committee [Greenstein Committee], recommending the VLA as top priority astronomy project for 1970s.
  August 1972 Congress approves VLA Project.
  8 November 1972 NSF authorization to proceed with the VLA project received, with $3M funding.
  8 December 1972 RFP for 28 VLA antennas issued to 10 companies.
  1 January 1973 VLA Construction Project begins operations as a Division of NRAO.
  March 1973 Operations begin with the 4th element of the Green Bank interferometer, a remotely-located 45ft antenna.
  April 1973 VLA field office established in Magdalena NM, VLA construction begins.
  18 October 1973 E-Systems, Inc. awarded subcontract to design and fabricate the VLA antennas.
  2 November 1973 NRAO takes possession of central VLA site.
  30 January 1974 E-Systems, Inc. awarded subcontract to design and fabricate transporter no. 1.
  May 1974 NRAO-Tucson moves to offices on Forbes Blvd., having outgrown previous offices in a storefront on Campbell Ave. and in the basement of the Kitt Peak National Observatory building on Cherry Ave.
  1 December 1974 Publication of paper on discovery of Sgr A*; observations done 11 and 13 February with Green Bank interferometer: Balick & Brown, ApJ 194, p. 265.
  31 March 1975 Service Building and Antenna Assembly Building completed at VLA site.
  May 1975 VLA Project personnel moved from Charlottesville to VLA site and offices in Socorro NM.
  13 August 1975 Land acquisition of Wye completed.
22 September 1975 Antenna no. 1 and antenna transporter no. 1 accepted.
  24 October 1975 First observations by antenna no. 1: Virgo A, 3C 274 at 6 cm.


  18 February 1976 VLA antennas 1 and 2 obtain first fringes with 1.24 km baseline.
  June 1976 Asynchronous computer and 13 employees moved from Charlottesville to NM.
  18 October 1976 Four-element array of VLA antennas obtains first fringes. .
  June 1978 Formal announcement in Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, vol. 10, no. 1: the VLA is open for scientific poposals.
  1 October 1978 David S. Heeschen ends term as Director.
  1 October 1978 Morton S. Roberts becomes Director.
  1 October 1978 The Green Bank Interferometer ceases to run as an NRAO user instrument and is taken over by the USNO to monitor earth rotation and polar motion.
  March 1979 Creation of FITS (Flexible Image Transport System), the standard data interchange format used by most astronomical software.
  July 1979 Work begins on writing AIPS software.
  9 November 1979 Final VLA antenna, no. 28, accepted from E-Systems.
  28 August 1980 VLA used as a portion of VLBI network.
  10 October 1980 VLA dedication ***need photo.
November 1980 First AIPS (Astronomical Image Processing Software) release to general users.
22 January 1981 All 27 VLA antennas working in the A configuration.
  24 March 1981 First meeting of Working Group to upgrade 36-Foot.
  1982 Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 1980s, vol. 1: Report of the Astronomy Survey Committee [Field Committee], recommends the VLBA as #2 priority astronomy project for the 1980s.
May 1982 Proposal to construct and operate VLBA (Very Long Baseline Array) submitted to NSF.
  15 July 1982 36ft telescope closes for resurfacing and upgrade to 12m.
  1983 First U.S. community science workshops on the design of a synthesis array for millimeter-wave astronomy; workshops continue through 1989.
  16 April 1983 VLA Visitor Center dedicated.
17 January 1984 First observations with 12m telescope.
  15 May 1984 Publication of measurements of He-3 atom; observations done in February and August 1982 with the 140ft telescope: Rood, Bania, & Wilson, ApJ 280, p 629.
  September 1984 NRAO-Tucson offices relocate from Forbes Blvd. to University of Arizona Astronomy Dept. building's new addition.
  30 September 1984 Morton S. Roberts ends term as Director.
  1 October 1984 Hein Hvatum becomes Acting Director.
  1 January 1985 Paul A. Vanden Bout becomes Director.
  March 1985 NASA Voyager Project work begins. The VLA will be used with Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Deep Space Network in Goldstone CA to track NASA's Voyager encounter with Neptune in August 1989.
  May 1985 Initial VLBA construction funds released.


February 1986 Construction on first VLBA antenna begins at Pie Town NM.
  September 1987 The U.S. Naval Observatory stops using the Green Bank Interferometer for monitoring earth rotation and polar motion. Two elements of the Interferometer (85-1 and 85-2) continue operation for monitoring extragalactic and galactic variable sources for the Naval Research Laboratory.
  September 1987 Array Operations Center construction begins in Socorro NM.
  October 1987 First observations made with partially completed VLBA.
15 November 1988 300ft telescope collapses.
  8 December 1988 Dedication of Array Operations Center, Socorro NM.
  January 1989 The 85-3 telescope begins operation as part of the USNO VLBI array, and also begins pulsar monitoring as a backup project.
  July 1989 Green Bank Telescope (GBT) design funds received.
  24 August 1989 Telemetry from Voyager Neptune flyby received by VLA.
  July 1990 Proposal for the Millimeter Array (MMA) submitted to the National Science Foundation.
  December 1990 GBT construction funds received.
  1 May 1991 Ground breaking for the GBT. ***need photo
  May 1991 The Decade of Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics: Report of the Astronomy Survey Committee [Bahcall Committee], recommends the MMA as #1 priority ground-based astronomy project for the 1990s.
  1 July 1991 On-site heavy construction for GBT begins.
  December 1991 Publication of discovery of multi-z molecular emission; observations done with 12m, 3-11 July 1991: Brown & Vanden Bout, AJ 102, p 1956.
April 1993 Construction finished on 10th and final VLBA antenna on Mauna Kea HI.
29 May 1993 First observations made with all 10 VLBA stations.
20 August 1993 VLBA dedication.
  November 1994 National Science Board (NSB) approves a project development plan for the MMA and endorses further planning.
  February 1995 The new USNO 20-meter telescope begins operation for the USNO earth monitoring program; 85-3 continues monitoring of pulsars.
  1 December 1995 Publication of discovery of black hole in NGC4258 and measurement of Hubble constant from it; observations done 26 April 1994 with VLBA: Miyoshi et al, Nature 373, p 127.
  May 1995 Completion of 45ft telescope GB Earth Station, funded by NASA as part of their support of OVLBI.


  March 1996 Green Bank Interferometer closes for lack of funding.
  November 1996 The Green Bank Interferometer starts up again, run by a cooperative agreement between NRAO, NASA, NRL, and USNO, observing mostly galactic variable sources.
  12 June 1997 VSOP first fringes with the VLBA.
  May 1998 National Science Board authorizes the expenditure of $26M for a three-year MMA design and development program.
  October 1998 Operations begin from expanded Jansky Lab in Green Bank.
  June 1999 NSF signs Memorandum of Understanding with European institutions for a joint design and development phase of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a project that joins the MMA with the European Large Southern Array project.
  19 July 1999 140ft telescope in Green Bank closed as an NRAO user facility.
  May 2000 Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, the 2001 report of the National Research Council Board on Physics and Astronomy [McKee/Taylor Committee], reaffirms the recommendations of the 1991 decadal committee by endorsing "the completion of the Millimeter Array (MMA; now part of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array)". The report also recommends the EVLA as one of the major initiative priorities for the coming decade.
  26 July 2000 12m telescope closes as NRAO user facility; University of Arizona begins operation of telescope.
22 August 2000 "First light" with the GBT.
  25 August 2000 Dedication of the GBT. ***need photo.
  6 October 2000 Operation of the GB interferometer ends.
  November 2000 EVLA Phase I Proposal submitted to NSF.
  November 2001 U.S. Congress appropriates $12.5 million to initiate construction of ALMA.
  15 November 2001 National Science Board approves construction of EVLA Phase I.
  1 June 2002 Paul A. Vanden Bout ends term as Director.
  1 June 2002 W. Miller Goss named Acting Director.
  1 September 2002 Fred K.Y. Lo becomes Director.
  May 2003 NRAO Science Center opens in Green Bank, providing science exhibits and teaching space.
6 November 2003 Groundbreaking at the 2900m altitude site of the ALMA Camp, future site of the Operations Support Facility, near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
  1 November 2004 Celebration of the opening of Joint ALMA Office, Santiago, Chile.
  2 December 2004 EVLA first fringes.
  14 January 2005 GBT and VLBA observe the Huygens Probe descent to Titan, providing ground-based observations of velocity during the probe's descent through Titan's atmosphere.
  April 2005 Addition to NRAO's Edgemont Rd. building in Charlottesville completed. The North American ALMA Science Center moves into the new space.
  11 July 2005 NSF authorizes AUI representatives to sign a contract with General Dynamics, Inc. for the construction of up to 32 ALMA production antennas, the initial 25 to cost $169M.
October 2005 Groundbreaking for the Technical Building at the 5000m altitude Array Operations Site of ALMA.
Modified on Tuesday, 19-Sep-2017 11:59:43 EDT by Ellen Bouton