OSU is moving closer
to unplugging 'Big Ear'
By David Lore
September 2, 1995
Ohio State University has taken the first step toward abandoning its "Big Ear" radio telescope south of Delaware, Ohio, university officials said yesterday.
Robert Haverkamp, assistant to the vice president for business and administration, said the university has signed a 10-year extension of its current lease but expects to terminate the lease by January.
"This is a renewal for the full renewal period, but nobody intends to go through with that," Haverkamp said.
The university leased the 24-acre telescope site in 1985 from Delaware developers Richard and Mary Farr to prevent th egiant instrument - as big as three football fields - from being demolished. Built in the 1950s by electrical engineer [and astronomer] John Kraus on property owned by Ohio Wesleyan University, the telescope was threatened after Ohio Wesleyan sold the property to the Farrs and their business partners.
OSU's 10-year lease with the developers expired July 31, but it allows for one 10-year renewal - through 2005 - providing Ohio State agrees to a rent increase and to a paint job for the telescope superstructure.
OSU, however, decided to abandon the telescope rather than commit to painting it, which could cost $285,000 or more. The current extension involves a rent increase - from $9,000 to $31,188 a year - but doesn't require painting as long as a termination agreement is signed by Jan. 31, 1996.
Radio astronomers and OSU officials have discussed building a new telescope in central Ohio to continue "Big Ear's" mission of mapping stars and other extraterrestrial radio sources. Since 1973, the telescope also has monitored the heavens for any evidence of alien civilizations.
It now appears, however, that the telescope will be razed to make way for an expansion of the Delaware Golf Club course and nearby housing. Details of the project were announced last month by the developers, New Green Highlands Development Ltd. and Ganzhorn Enterprises.
[Editors note: A new agreement signed between OSU and the development company will shut down Big Ear on December 31, 1997, despite outcries from around the world by professionals and amateurs alike. So, as we complete the LOBES survey and the Serendip II program, we are moving forward on our Argus plans with work on designs and site evaluations.]