[Aerial Photo of Big Ear]
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Ohio Historical Society
Big Ear Marker
Dedication Ceremony
November 5, 2000

Dedication Program

Dedication of an Ohio Historical Society Marker Commemorating the BIG EAR, Ohio's pioneering radio telescope and the many people who built and used it.

Sunday, November 5, 2000
2:00 p. m. EST

Presented by:

North American AstroPhysical Observatory [NAAPO Logo]
Ohio Historical Society [Ohio Historical Society Logo]
Ohio Bicentennial Commission [Ohio Bicentennial Commission Logo]
Dedication Program
Moderator: Dr. Philip E. Barnhart, NAAPO Coordinator


Introduction of invited special guests:

  • Dr. John D. Kraus, Creator and builder of BIG EAR
  • Mrs Lois Mikesell, Widow of Gene Mikesell
  • Dr. Robert S. Dixon, Associate Director of OSURO
  • Dr. Jerry Ehman, Discoverer of "Wow!" Signal
  • Dr. Jon Young, Dir., OSU ESL (ElectroScience Laboratory)
  • Dr. Steven W. Ellingson, ARGUS development
  • Dr. Stephen Brown, volunteer, engineer
  • Russell Childers, volunteer, chief observer
  • Ms. Cindy Brooman, BIG EAR website, Volunteer webmaster
  • Mr. Gary Bashinski, Dir., Dornoch Golf Club
  • Ms. Carmelita Boyer, Ohio Bicentennial Commission
  • Mr. Philip Ross, Ohio Historical Society
Unveiling of the Marker and Closing Remarks

Speaker Biographical Sketches - -

John D. Kraus: Ohio's first and foremost radio astronomer, designer and builder of BIG EAR, the third largest radio telescope in the United States.

Robert S. Dixon: Student of and collaborator with Dr. Kraus and associate director of the BIG EAR radio telescope. Bob created innovative observational aids and conceived the ARGUS project.

Jerry Ehman: Radio astronomer, programmer and observer during the Ohio Sky Survey, later volunteering to operate BIG EAR after the completion of the Ohio Survey. Author of the famous phrase "Wow!"

Jon Young: Director of OSU ElectroScience Laboratory (ESL). Jon used BIG EAR as a compact range for radar studies.

Steven Ellingson: Started as a volunteer at BIG EAR while in graduate school in Electrical Engineering. Currently he is principal investigator on the ARGUS Project.

Stephen Brown: Served as volunteer chief engineer at BIG EAR until obtaining his PhD while working on the ARGUS program.

Mrs. Lois Mikesell: Gene Mikesell's Widow. Gene taught many people the ways of BIG EAR and was largely responsible for keeping the telescope in operating condition and on the air for many years.

Russell Childers: Volunteer, chief observer at BIG EAR, who created software to automate the observing program after the crash of the old standby computer. He created a program to recognize celestial sources and select narrow-band sources for closer scrutiny by BIG EAR.

Cindy Brooman: A volunteer who by very hard, dedicated work is representative of the many volunteers who have contributed to the operation of BIG EAR from 1973 through 1997.

Mr. Gary Bashinski: Director of the Dornoch Golf Club who has worked with us in setting up this memorial historical marker.

Philip E. Barnhart: Volunteer coordinator of the North American AstroPhysical Observatory, (NAAPO) which has overseen the operation and maintenance of the radio observatorysince 1985. He is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio.

Mr. Philip Ross: Historical Markers Coordinator, Ohio Historical Society.

Ms Carmelita Boyer: Ohio Bicentennial Commission, Regional Coordinator

Text included on the Big Ear Historical Marker:

Side 1:

One half-mile east is the site of the former BIG EAR radio telescope. Designed by Dr. John D. Kraus, pioneering radio astronomer at Ohio State University, it had a collecting area of 340 by 70 feet (104 by 21 meters). The observatory was completed in 1963. The Ohio Sky Survey recorded here between 1965 and 1972 was the most accurate, reliable and complete mapping of cosmic radio signals (the radio sky) for many years. Big Ear gained fame for its ability to detect quasi-stellar radio sources, or "quasars," and for its discovery of some of the most distant objects known. This observatory conducted a 24-year continuous search for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, during which the famous "Wow!" signal was received in 1977. BIG EAR was demolished in 1998.

Side 2:

BIG EAR consisted of a flat tiltable reflector, a fixed standing parabolic reflector, and pairs of receiving horn antennas. Radio signals were bounced off the flat reflector, focused by the parabolic reflector, and collected by the feed horns. The telescope used the rotation of the Earth to scan a narrow path across the sky once each day.

The Ohio State University and the National Science Foundation funded the telescope's design and construction, and it was built almost entirely with faculty and student part-time labor. From 1973 through 1997, the observatory was operated and maintained by a dedicated group of volunteer scientists with generous assistance from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and private benefactors. Successful operation of the telescope would not have been possible without the dedication of site technician Eugene (Gene) Mikesell ((1931 - 1987).



Statement of Significance: This statement was requested by the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Bicentennial Commission during the planning phase of the Big Ear marker.

Ohio's large radio telescope (320 x 71 foot collecting aperture) covered nearly 4 acres and was called BIG EAR because it listened in on the radio emissions of astronomical objects. Built largely by university students and faculty it was used to perform an important sky survey to record the then unknown position and "brightnessess" of cosmic radio sources.

Over a period of 12 years it completed a survey at 600 Megahertz and 1420 Megahertz recording nearly 20,000 discrete radio sources, half of which were previously unknown. This survey was the most complete and most reliable record of the radio sky at the time and is still referenced. Nearly 150 professional journal articles were published from this instrument. Over 20 graduate students and a dozen faculty members from various institutions took part in its operation. Pioneeering work was carried out involving data analysis and display, low noise receiver design and techniques for discovery of quasi-stellar radio sources (QUASARS). The telescope was used in the longest continuous search for evidence of extraterrestrial advanced technological civilizations. It has recently been used to pioneer new antenna and receiver technologies. Operated for the final 24 years of its existence by a dedicated group of volunteers ranging from middle school students through active and retired professional astronomers, physicists and engineeers, it has provided opportunity to develop more efficient data processing techniques and new technology radio telescopes or unique and p owerful design.

Since its demolition to make way for golf course expansion, a historical marker seems the most appropriate means to keep before the public the importance to scientific history of Ohio's only radio telescope.

[Main Author: Dr. Philip E. Barnhart]

VHS Tape of Big Ear Historical Marker Ceremony

If anyone is interested in the Marker dedication ceremony we have a number of VHS video tape copies of the entire program. We will be happy to send one to anyone willing to donate to the Argus project. All it takes is a note requesting a tape to:

Dr. Philip E. Barnhart
4655 Indian Ct.
Westerville, OH 43082

Please enclose your donation with your note. Make out your check to NAAPO. [Note. We do not accept credit or debit cards.]



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Last modified: December 15, 2006.