Hat Creek 85' Telescope Control Room, 1962






Radio Astronomy Laboratory
50th Anniversary

November 13 - 14, 2008

Lawrence Hall ofScience
University of California, Berkeley

"It was 50 years ago today..."(from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"--The Beatles, June 1967); also [and on an even higher plane], Berkeley's RAL (Weaver, Fall 1957).

Harold Weaver's creation of the Radio Astronomy Laboratory was instrumental in the transformation of the Berkeley Astronomy Department from its classical-astronomy to its modern-astrophysics approach. Back then cm-wave radio astronomy with single dishes and 100-channel spectrometers was hot stuff, and Harold planned its evolution with consummate skill and fortuneteller accuracy.

VLBI began and so did mm-wave spectroscopy, which defined the next phase under Jack Welch's directorship. Jack, the world's pioneer in mm-wave interferometry and aperture synthesis, defined the field and illustrated its power for star formation. As VLBI progressed to a national observatory level and single-dish spectroscopy evolved to a specialist's field, Hat Creek incorporated the Universities of Maryland and Illinois to form the BIMA array, whose quality was so high that it defied the intrusion and attack of rivals.

Enter the next director, Leo Blitz, who spearheaded combination of the BIMA and CalTech arrays into CARMA--again defining the state of the art in mm-wave synthesis studies. With Leo's taking on the crushing load of the directorship, Jack's fertile mind jumped its fences and created the one-Hectare telescope concept--soon to become the Allen Telescope Array--and here we are returning to the historical roots of cm wavelengths. But now it's not only the historical high-resolution spectroscopy: it's the unlimited horizon of high-energy astrophysics as seen by time-variable sources, and it's the exploration of ancient cosmology with Don Backer's Precision Array To Probe The Epoch Of Reionization (PAPER).

This combined emphasis with three instruments--CARMA, ATA, PAPER, covering a factor of 1000 in wavelength range--ushers in the RAL's fourth director, Don Backer. With his energy and imagination, the beginning portion of the RAL's next 50 years promises to be brightly unpredictable, serendipitous, and successful.