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The Bracewell Radio Astronomy Observatory at Stanford in the San Francisco Bay Area consists of five 18 metre dishes operating as a high-resolution X-band interferometer for extragalactic observational work.



The Observatory (historically known as "Heliopolis"), first achieved the angular resolution of the human eye (one arcminute). It was also here that the first discovery was made revealing the direction of motion of our solar system relative to the cosmic background.


Position: Latitude:, 37.39780400. Longitude:, -122.19073500

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Promising steps have been made since October to prevent the demolition of five 18-metre dish antennas located in the foothills behind the Stanford campus.

Rescue efforts began over a year ago following the Stanford Fire Marshall’s call to clean up dry brush — a potential fire hazard — at the observatory site. Although the dishes themselves posed no threat, Dean of the School of Engineering Jim Plummer ordered the removal of the dishes along with the brush and the transfer of the property back to the University from the school.

According to Charles Carter, director of the Stanford University Land Use and Environmental Planning Office, the equipment fell into disrepair after the Engineering School stopped using the dishes for research in the 1970s.

"The SoE took more than a year to determine if there were any viable academic uses of the site. Finding none, the school obtained a demolition permit to complete the clean-up" - Charles Carter.

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The Historical Heritage Commission on Wednesday asked Stanford University to hold off demolition of its five 60-foot radiotelescope dish antennas until the state decides whether they are historically significant.

The dishes on Alpine Road played an integral role in NASA's space exploration in the 1960s, but they have been overshadowed by the newer, more visible radio telescope known as ``the Dish.''
Stanford says the smaller dishes, called the Bracewell Observatory, are rusty, obsolete and pose a fire danger. They have sought a demolition permit from the county.
But the university's demolition plans have been slowed by the efforts of a devoted group of amateur astronomers called Friends of the Bracewell Observatory Association. The group has offered to raise the $200,000 or more it would take to refurbish the site and convert it into a teaching and research lab.

On Wednesday, the commission recommended that the board forward the nomination of the dishes to the California Register of Historical Resources and asked the board to advise Stanford to stave off any demolition plans until the state makes its determination in February.

The meeting was convened because Friends of Bracewell Observatory nominated the dishes to the California Register of Historical Resources. Before the nomination is sent to Sacramento, the county has 90 days to comment. Then the state could evaluate the site, based on its role in local or regional history.

"I'm very pleased that they believe Stanford should wait and see what the determination is'' - Dr. Bob Lash of Friends of Bracewell Observatory.

Stanford representatives said at Wednesday's meeting that the dishes lacked historical integrity because they were not sufficiently intact.

On a related front, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has submitted a proposal to Stanford's Office of Science Outreach to share the dishes with the Stanford faculty. Joseph Statman, manager of JPL's Microwave Array Project, wants the dishes as a possible testing site for the development of a new network to explore the most distant outer space, as well as an outreach program for high school students.

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Friends of the Bracewell Observatory Association have organised an effort to rescue the Bracewell Radio Astronomy Observatory from demolition at Stanford in the San Francisco Bay Area.



The telescope consists of five 60 foot dishes operating as a high-resolution X-band interferometer for extragalactic observational work.
The Dean of Engineering has scheduled its demolition as early as Monday Aug 15th.
The petitioners have sent an offer letter to the President of Stanford, John Hennessy, to fund the restoration and operation for the benefit of Stanford faculty, students, and community in exchange for a lease. This approach would accomplish their aims and at the same time absolve the Dean of the School of Engineering of any future responsibility.
It was the Dean who originally decided to demolish the five 60-foot dishes.

To help rescue the Observatory, please consider signing the on-line petition to Stanford's President at:

Petition:

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