Glen Campbell, a Horn Antenna, a 100 ft. Balloon and The BIG Bang…All Here, All There

In Homdel, New  Jersey, less than a mile (~one km) from the often ear splitting outdoor concerts of the Garden State (PNC) Arts Center, sits this odd looking contraption designed and built by Bell Labs, the historic and  prestigious research arm of AT&T. Jeanne and I visited this recently.

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…Known as a “horn” antenna, here facing down for storage, this large (for its day) 15 meter (50 ft.) sheet metal radio telescope was specifically built to bounce and receive radio signals off early satellite experiments using  the 100 ft. diameter Echo I Satellite Balloon, launched August 12, 1960.

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(On March 14, 1963, I took this 25 minute guided photo showing the Echo I satellite, as a wavering-bright “star trail” due to it’s slight deflation, passing overhead from the then dark skies of Bayville New Jersey.)

1963.03.14 001 4 AM 25 min, Bayville, Echo Sat

But what really ensured the telescope’s place in history was the work of Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, who in 1964 could not explain a mysterious background “noise” being picked up by the ultra sensitive cryogenic microwave receiver.

They systematically tried to eliminate any terrrestrial sources. No difference was detected when pointed generally toward New York City for example. Bird droppings, thought to be creating some sort of electrostatic interference, were cleaned from the horn, to no avail. Perhaps if the Arts Center were already there, with its 10,000 patrons and concerts, it too would have been suspected. (Although Jeanne and I would see Glen Cambell perform there four years later, Engene Ormandy (music of “Star Wars”)  was also one of the early classical performers!)

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But, after conferring with Robert Dicke, a particle physicist  at nearby Princeton University – and familiar with the theoretical, but never before detected “background radiation” components of the Big Bang Theory of cosmological evolution, the source of the mysterious  “static” was eventually verified and now the keystone for the theory’s acceptance.

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The telescope is located in a semi-wooded area on Telegraph Hill in Homdel, NJ, on  the private property of Alcatel-Lucent Technologys, and not readily accessible without special permission.

As usual, thanks for viewing, and comments are always welcome. M:-)

(Thanks to Wikipedia for their indispensable resources. Please consider contributing via their site.)

The Great American Road Trip – Prelude

ImageMy friend Tom and I had traveled together before, but California was the real thing, the ultimate road trip, and the time was right. Summer breaks from college were ending; future obligations with military and careers were looming; and each of us were becoming more involved and closer with the girls who eventually would become our wives….and still are. The image of Jeanne above was taken a few days before we departed, and would be in my thoughts constantly. 

My 1965 MGB had one more stop before Tom and I would depart Bergenfield, N.J. at 3:00 AM August 13th. That would be with Jeanne and I to the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, (Queens, NYC) to see Simon and Garfunkel in what would become perhaps one of the most memorable concert mismatches of the 60’s: relatively quiet, thought provoking, folksy songs of the headline duo; opened by the almost unknown, screaming loud, freaky, scary antics of Jim Morrison and the Doors – the latter having a bad emotional night and venting that with screeching and instrument smashing. Sitting high up in our $5 seats, we shared the shock and stunned silence bestowed by the audience to the new group from California, which left Morrison to reportedly say “I want to kill this crowd!” (“Killing…” is a phrase he prolongedly screamed out in their first number, “The End.”)   Ironically, S&G came on shortly after with their iconic hit “Sounds of Silence!” (See a description of this iconic concert here.)

Of course, the Doors would go on to become one of the premiere rock groups of the 60’s, of which I have long been a fan (Think: “Light My Fire.”) And Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have left us with a lifetime of great music. 

Driving home after the show, I was psyched for the cross country trip to begin, starting in just 2 hours.

Below is the MGB as it looked, freshly cleaned the day before. Note it is actually British Racing Green, not black as photographically rendered.  

See Part One here.

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