Owens Valley Radio Observatory

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Owens Valley Radio Observatory
OVRO 40 Meter Radio Telescope.jpg
Alternative namesOVRO Edit this on Wikidata
OrganizationCalifornia Institute of Technology
New Jersey Institute of Technology Edit this on Wikidata
LocationOwens Valley, US
Coordinates37°14′02″N 118°16′55″W / 37.2339°N 118.282°W / 37.2339; -118.282Coordinates: 37°14′02″N 118°16′55″W / 37.2339°N 118.282°W / 37.2339; -118.282
Altitude1,222 m (4,009 ft) Edit this at Wikidata
Established1958 Edit this on Wikidata
Websitewww.ovro.caltech.edu Edit this at Wikidata
TelescopesLong Wavelength Array
OVRO 40 meter Telescope
Owens Valley Solar Array Edit this on Wikidata
Owens Valley Radio Observatory is located in the United States
Owens Valley Radio Observatory
Location of Owens Valley Radio Observatory
Commons page Related media on Wikimedia Commons

Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO) is a radio astronomy observatory located near Big Pine, California (US) in Owens Valley. It lies east of the Sierra Nevada, approximately 350 kilometers (220 mi) north of Los Angeles and 20 kilometers (12 mi) southeast of Bishop. It was established in 1956, and is owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The Owens Valley Solar Array portion of the observatory has been operated by New Jersey Institute of Technology since 1997.[1]

One of the ten dish-antenna radiotelescope systems of the Very Long Baseline Array is located on a sublease within the Owens Valley observatory.


The Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO), one of the largest university-operated radio observatory in the world, has its origins in the late 1940s with three individuals: Lee DuBridge, president of California Institute of Technology (Caltech); Robert Bacher, chairman of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy; and Jesse Greenstein, professor of astrophysics. In 1954, Caltech occupied a central position in the American radio astronomy program. John Bolton and Gordon Stanley, two respected Australian astronomers, joined the Caltech faculty in order to undertake the construction of large dishes. In 1956 the first radio telescope, a 32-foot (9.8 m) antenna, was erected on Palomar Mountain. It was dismantled in 1958 and transferred to the Owens Valley site. At the same time, two 90-foot (27.4 m) telescopes were completed. Ten years later, an even bigger antenna, a 130-foot (39.6 m) dish was finished. Over the period of 1985 to 1996, a millimeter-wave array was commissioned at OVRO. It consists of six 34-foot (10.4 m) dishes (also called Leighton's dishes). The millimeter array dishes become part of CARMA when that array was commissioned.

OVRO has used its telescopes and other instruments (listed below) to improve on the locations of radio sources in the sky, to study hydrogen clouds within the Milky Way, galaxy formation, active galactic nuclei ("blazars"), fast radio bursts, and other radioastronomical phenomena.[2] This research is performed by the staff at the observatory with help from professors and post-doctoral students from many institutions. The observatory is different from other radio observatories because of its extensive work with graduate students, who can come to the observatory for long-term observation, benefiting not only the students, but also the observatory as it allows for more comprehensive projects to take place.[2]


OVRO staff took a large share of the responsibility for operating CARMA, which was located 20 miles (32 km) east of OVRO in the Inyo Mountains, but was decommissioned in 2015. CARMA was a collaboration between Caltech, University of California Berkeley, University of Illinois, University of Maryland, and University of Chicago to observe space at centimeter and millimeter wavelengths with a 23-element interferometer. CARMA used this interferometer to study the origins of planets, stars and galaxies, as well as to measure the distortions in the cosmic microwave background caused by clusters of galaxies formed soon after the Big Bang.[2]


  • COMAP, or Carbon Monoxide Mapping Array Pathfinder, was commissioned in November 2018 to create carbon monoxide density maps of the universe between redshifts of 3 and 4.[3] The COMAP receiver is installed on one of the 10-meter telescopes of the former millimeter array.
  • KuPol, or Ku-band Polarimeter, is an instrument that was installed on the OVRO 40 meter Telescope in 2007 and is used to monitor blazars.[4]
  • The Expanded Owens Valley Solar Array (EOVSA) is a solar radio telescope array currently in operation at OVRO. It incorporates seven refurbished dishes from OVSA, along with eight new 2 m (6.6 ft) antennas, and one of OVRO's 27-meter telescopes. The small dishes are arranged in a three-arm spiral pattern.[5]
  • The Owens Valley Long Wavelength Array, commissioned in 2013, is a duplicate of the Long Wavelength Array in New Mexico. It consists of 288 dipole antennas spread out over a desert area equivalent to about 450 football fields.[6] The OVRO-LWA produces whole-sky radio images in the 30 to 88 megahertz band.[7]
  • The Deep Synoptic Array (DSA) is an array of 10 4.5 m (15 ft) parabolic radio telescopes currently used to detect and locate Fast Radio Bursts (FRB)s.[8]

Former instruments[edit]

Future instruments[edit]

  • An expanded, 100-element Deep Synoptic Array is currently under construction. It is scheduled for commissioning in 2020 with 100 operational dishes.[14]
  • In 2020, construction will begin on an expansion to the Long Wavelength Array. This expansion will add 64 fiber-linked antennas at long baselines, and incorporate a new, more powerful and versatile analog and digital back end.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

In the film The Arrival (1996), Zane Zaminsky (Charlie Sheen) and Calvin (Richard Schiff) work at Owens Valley for the SETI Project and discover an alien signal.

In the film Contact (1997), the Owens Valley 40-meter telescope is mentioned as the location where Dr. Eleanor Arroway (Jodie Foster) did her thesis work.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Leverington, David (2017). Observatories and telescopes of modern times : ground-based optical and radio astronomy facilities since 1945. David Leverington. pp. 388–390. ISBN 9780521899932. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "The Owens Valley Radio Observatory". Retrieved 2012-04-14.
  3. ^ "Carbon Monoxide Mapping Array Pathfinder". Caltech Astronomy. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  4. ^ "OVRO 40m Telescope". Caltech Astronomy. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  5. ^ "OVSA Expansion Project". New Jersey Institute of Technology Department of Physics. Archived from the original on 2015-09-07. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  6. ^ "The Owens Valley Long Wavelength Array". Caltech Astronomy. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  7. ^ "Powerful New Radio Telescope Array Searches the Entire Sky 24/7". Caltech Astronomy. Retrieved 2015-05-12.
  8. ^ "Fast Radio Burst Pinpointed to Distant Galaxy". Caltech Astronomy. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  9. ^ a b "CARMA | Frequently Asked Questions". Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  10. ^ "C-BASS: C-Band All Sky Survey". Caltech Astronomy. Archived from the original on 2011-06-13. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  11. ^ King, Oliver G.; Copley, Charles; Davies, Rod; Davis, Richard; Dickinson, Clive; Hafez, Yaser A.; Holler, Christian; John, Jaya John; Jonas, Justin L.; Jones, Michael E.; Leahy, J. Patrick; Muchovej, Stephen J. C.; Pearson, Timothy J.; Readhead, Anthony C. S.; Stevenson, Matthew A.; Taylor, Angela C. (2010). "The C-Band All-Sky Survey: Instrument design, status, and first-look data". Millimeter, Submillimeter, and Far-Infrared Detectors and Instrumentation for Astronomy V. Proceedings of SPIE. 7741. pp. 77411I. arXiv:1008.4082. doi:10.1117/12.858011.
  12. ^ Keating, B.; Moyerman, S.; Boettger, D.; Edwards, J.; Fuller, G.; Matsuda, F.; Miller, N.; Paar, H.; Rebeiz, G.; et al. (2011). "Ultra High Energy Cosmology with POLARBEAR". 1110: 2101. arXiv:1110.2101. Bibcode:2011arXiv1110.2101K. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ "Legacy Owens Valley Solar Array". New Jersey Institute of Technology Department of Physics. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  14. ^ "The DSA: A Fast Radio Burst Localization Machine". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  15. ^ "MRI: Development of the OVRO-LWA - A Low Frequency Radio Interferometric All-Sky Telescope". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 2019-10-07.