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Emily LakdawallaOctober 4, 2013

Government shutdown closes 3 of 4 National Radio Astronomy Observatories

Today, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) was forced to shut down three of its four large facilities: the Green Bank Telescope, Very Large Array, and Very Long Baseline Arrays. The fourth, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, has more available funds and is also jointly operated with the European Southern Observatory, so will not likely shut down.

Here are several stories about the closures. I can't bear to write about this.

From Science Insider: Shutdown Static Blinds U.S. Radio Telescopes

Also from Science Insider: Astronomer: Shutdown Could Waste a Year’s Worth of Work

From Discovery Space: Cosmic Tragedy: Shutdown Kills Radio Observatories

And NRAO's Tania Burchell's Twitter feed is heartbreaking today. 

Astronomers walking out of @TheNRAO, arms full of books, leftovers, little window plants. :( #hittinghome

— Tania (@RadioAstroGal) October 4, 2013

Physically flipping switches to shut off our multimedia RAIDs, speakers…@TheNRAO Media dept is eerily quiet.

— Tania (@RadioAstroGal) October 4, 2013

Doors are shutting. Parking lot is emptying. I think a goldfish may have been abandoned. I'm gonna go check. #nraoshutdown

— Tania (@RadioAstroGal) October 4, 2013

Goodnight, @TheNRAO . :( pic.twitter.com/znwNqc0PjE

— Tania (@RadioAstroGal) October 4, 2013

Tania did save the fish.

Finally, as if this weren't enough, Jeff Foust reports that the Arecibo observatory only has a couple of weeks of funding until it, too, will need to furlough all of its employees. EDIT October 7: I have now heard that this is not true. Arecibo will continue to function, because in Puerto Rico they're accustomed to not being paid.

It's time to stop this madness. Contact John Boehner and tell him to allow the vote to proceed so that the majority of Democratic and Republican representatives who do not want to ruin America's prosperity, great works, international standing, and financial power can get our country running again. Let Americans do what Americans can do so well: work hard, innovate, create, produce, lead. The oxymoronic anti-government lawmakers who are incapable of doing all those things should get out of our way.

Read more: radio telescopes, Space Policy

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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