Oh My Stars!

There is nothing better than waking up in the middle of the night to go out on the back porch to check out a meteor shower. A few years ago my mom woke me up for a meteor shower. I stumbled down the stairs and found my way outside. As soon as I crossed the threshold of the door and aimed my eyes toward the heavens I could not have shut my eyes if I tried.

I don’t know what it is about the heavens that is so captivating.  Could it be the mystery that encompasses our minds? The possibility of strange forms of life far away in a distant galaxy? Whatever it is, there are always advances that keep bringing us closer to those faraway places. The MIT Haystack Observatory is one of those advances that is bringing us new information and sights of the stars daily.

The Haystack Observatory was constructed beginning in 1960 and was completed in 1964. It was to be used primarily for planetary astronomy. The Haystack was used for reconnaissance on moon landing spots for the Apollo Lander and also for Viking on its trip to Mars.  The telescope has been used for observations from planetary movements and landscapes to radio astronomy to study molecule movements in space. The vast resume the Haystack boasts makes it one of the most prominent observatories in the country.

The Haystack Observatory is now being worked on for use of new radio astronomy methods, including Deuterium Array, which would be similar to an electron ray with the capability of being electronically steered (and which is being partially funded by the National Science Foundation). Another method being researched is Mileura Widefield Array, which will have the capability for tracing much higher frequencies between 80 and 300 MHz over a very wide field. With these new technological additions on the way, I’m sure we can expect much more from the Haystack Observatory in the future.

Get out there and take it all in.

Written by: Erik Alvarenga


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