In collaboration with the
International Astronomical Union


Category of Astronomical Heritage: tangible immovable
Holmdel Horn Antenna at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, USA

Format: IAU - Outstanding Astronomical Heritage

Description

Geographical position 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 247
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    Date: 2022-12-08 03:30:29
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Holmdel Horn Antenna at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel, Off Garden State Parkway in Crawford Hill Facility,
791 Holmdel Ave., Holmdel Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey, 07733, USA

 

Location 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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    Date: 2022-12-08 03:31:27
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

Latitude 40°23’29’’ N, Longitude 74°11’7’’ W, Elevation ...m above mean sea level.

 

IAU observatory code 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 247
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    Date: 2022-12-08 02:48:53
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

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Description of (scientific/cultural/natural) heritage 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 247
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    Date: 2022-12-08 03:32:24
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

15-m-Holmdel microwave Horn Antenna at Bell Teleph

Fig. 1a. 15-m-Holmdel microwave Horn Antenna at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Crawford Hill Facility in Holmdel, New Jersey (1959), (credit: Bell Labs)

           

15-m-Holmdel microwave Horn Antenna, rear view and

Fig. 1b. 15-m-Holmdel microwave Horn Antenna, rear view and building for equipment and controls at Bell, Telephone Laboratories, Crawford Hill Facility in Holmdel, New Jersey (1959), (credit: Bell Labs)



The large 15-m-Holmdel microwave Horn Antenna at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Crawford Hill Facility in Holmdel, New Jersey, was built in 1959 by the Bell engineer Dr. David C. Hogg (1921--2009) under the direction of the architect Arthur B. Crawford (1907--1990) from Freehold, New Jersey [Crawford, Hogg & Hunt 1961]. The Horn Antenna was 50 ft (15m) in length, 20 ft (6.1m) in diameter, and the entire structure weighed about 18 tons. It was composed of aluminum with a triangular steel base. A plastic clapboarded utility shed 10 x 20 feet, with two windows, a double door and a sheet metal roof, housing equipment and controls, is found next to the Horn Antenna.

ECHO I, NASA’s first communications satellite, a

Fig. 2a. ECHO I, NASA’s first communications satellite, a passive spacecraft based on a balloon design (1960), (credit: NASA)

           

Telstar communications satellite (1962), (CC3, Ram

Fig. 2b. Telstar communications satellite (1962), (CC3, Rama)



The Holmdel Horn Antenna was used as a satellite communication antenna and as radio telescope during the 1960s, first for pioneering work in communication satellites for the NASA ECHO I, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s passive communications satellite project, in order to detect radio waves that bounced off Project ECHO balloon satellites [Hey 1973, p. 98-99, Crawford et al. 1961]. The horn was later modified to work with the Telstar Communication Satellite frequencies as a receiver for broadcast signals from the satellite.
"The Horn Antenna represents the heyday of communications research and design in America, a victim of the mergers and acquisitions that have whittled away at Bell Labs and shuttered the Crawford Hill Facility" (Gregory Couch).

Wilson and Penzias in front of Holmdel microwave H

Fig. 3a. Wilson and Penzias in front of Holmdel microwave Horn Antenna (1975), (credit: Bell Labs)

           

Arno Allan Penzias (*1933) and Robert Woodrow Wils

Fig. 3b. Arno Allan Penzias (*1933) and Robert Woodrow Wilson (*1936) in front of Holmdel microwave Horn Antenna (credit: Bell Labs)



To measure faint radio waves from the Telstar communications satellite (1962), the radio astronomers Robert Woodrow Wilson (*1936) and Arno Allan Penzias (*1933) had to eliminate all recognizable interference from their receiver, e.g. effects of radar and radio broadcasting, urban interference of New York, droppings of pigeons nesting in the antenna -- in addition, they suppressed interference from the heart in the receiver itself by cooling it with liquid helium to -269°C, only 4° above absolute zero.
But there was still a mysterious disturbing noise -- 100 times more intense than they had expected, was evenly spread over the sky, and was present day and night and through four seasons. They were certain that the radiation they detected on a wavelength of 7.35cm did not come from the Earth, the Sun, our Galaxy or extraterrestrial radio sources. By 1964, they were convinced that the only remaining explanation for this noise was that the source was outside of our own Galaxy.

Robert Henry Dicke (1916--1997), (Creative Commons

Fig. 4a. Robert Henry Dicke (1916--1997), (Creative Commons)

           

Jim Peebles, 2010 (*1935) (CC2, Juan Diego Soler)

Fig. 4b. Jim Peebles, 2010 (*1935) (CC2, Juan Diego Soler)



In Princeton University, the astrophysicists Robert Henry Dicke (1916--1997), Jim Peebles (*1935), and David Todd Wilkinson (1935--2002), searched for microwave radiation in this region of the spectrum -- radiation left over from the Big Bang at the beginning of the universe.

A friend told Penzias about a preprint paper written by Jim Peebles. They invited the Princeton group to check the measurements with the Holmdel Antenna. Then in 1965, Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias understood, that they stumbled on the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) of 7.3 K (today: 3 K above Absolute Zero or -270°C) that permeates the universe, predicted by Dicke et al.:
"Measurements of the effective zenith noise temperature of the 20-foot horn-reflector antenna at the Crawford Hill Laboratory, Holmdel, New Jersey, at 4080 Mc/s have yielded a value of about 3.5 K higher than expected. This excess temperature is, within the limits of our observations, isotropic, unpolarized, and free from seasonal variations (July, 1964 -- April, 1965). A possible explanation for the observed excess noise temperature is the one given by Dicke, Peebles, Roll, and Wilkinson (1965) in a companion letter in this issue." [Penzias & Wilson 1965].

In contrast to the "Steady State Theory", which believed that the universe was static and would remain forever unchanged,  the scientific community, the cosmologists, quickly realized that Penzias and Wilson had made the most important discovery in modern astronomy -- since Edwin Hubble demonstrated in 1929 that the universe was expanding. Penzias and Wilson’s discovery confirmed George Gamow’s and Georges Lemaître’s "Big Bang" theory of the creation of the universe, which existed in an infinitely dense and infinitely hot state before the Big Bang -- 13.7 billion years ago -- caused its rapid expansion. "We live in an ocean of whispers left over from our eruptive creation, physicist George Gamow and his colleagues had said. Nobody was listening." [Ferris 1983, p. 141].

Steven Weinberg wrote: "in the 1950s, the study of the early universe was widely regarded as not the sort of thing to which a respectable scientist would devote his time."
But Penzias and Wilson’s discovery helped change the science of cosmology, the study of the history of the universe, from theoretical speculation into a discipline of direct observation.

In 1978, Penzias and Wilson were awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics, but not the Princeton group of astrophysicists and theoreticians. The Harvard physicist and Nobel Laureate, Edward Purcell, remarked: "It just may be the most important thing anybody has ever seen." (Ferris 1983, p. 151).
In 1992, NASA sent the "Cosmic Microwave Background Explorer" (COBE) satellite into orbit to investigate the CMB in great detail; the result was the first detailed map which shows small irregularities ("ripples") in the microwave background.

 

History 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 247
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 3
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2022-12-08 03:33:01
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

15-m-Holmdel microwave Horn Antenna (1959), (CC3,

Fig. 5a. 15-m-Holmdel microwave Horn Antenna (1959), (CC3, Fabioj)

           

Crawford Horn Antenna Memorial (*1935) (C3, Fabioj

Fig. 5b. Crawford Horn Antenna Memorial (*1935) (C3, Fabioj)



Instruments

  • 15-m-Holmdel microwave Horn Antenna was built in 1959 by the Bell engineer Dr. David C. Hogg (1921--2009) under the direction of the architect A.B. Crawford. This type of antenna is called a Hogg or Horn-Reflector Antenna, invented by Albert Beck and Harald Friis in 1941 and further developed by David C. Hogg at Bell Labs in 1961. The Horn Antenna was 50 ft (15m) in length, 20 ft (6.1m) in diameter, and the entire structure weighed about 18 tons.

 

State of preservation 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 247
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    Version: 2
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2022-12-08 03:33:32
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

The horn antenna is still there, all equipment from inside the antenna, the electronics, which were used for the discovery, has been stripped out. These items are preserved in the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany.
It was designated a "National Historic Landmark" in 1988 because of its association with the research work of two radio astronomers (1965) which led to the Nobel Prize (1978). In 1989, the Holmdel horn antenna was dedicated to the National Park Service as a "National Historic Landmark" (National Register Information System ID: 89002457).

 

Comparison with related/similar sites 
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    Entity: 247
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    Date: 2022-12-08 02:48:55
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no information available

 

Threats or potential threats 
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    Date: 2022-12-08 03:40:24
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

The facility where the horn antenna is placed, was sold by Nokia Bell Labs in early 2020, and the site’s future remains uncertain.

PETITION TO SAVE THE ANTENNA:
"The legendary Bell Labs Horn Antenna, which resides in Holmdel, is in danger of being removed or destroyed. The antenna was used in 1964 to confirm the Big Bang Theory of how the universe was created. For this scientific breakthrough, Bell Labs scientists Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias won the Nobel Prize in Physics. The antenna, which sits atop Crawford Hill along Holmdel Road, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. In 2021, this property, including the historic horn, was sold to a developer."
Citizens for Informed Land Use (CILU) has partnered with other local organizations to advocate for preservation of this property as a public park and historic site with walking/hiking trails, views of Raritan Bay and Manhattan, and the intact antenna.
If you want to preserve this jewel of Holmdel, you can do two things:
Click here PETITION TO SAVE THE ANTENNA to sign our petition advocating for the site to be preserved.

 

Present use 
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    Date: 2022-12-08 03:34:50
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The horn antenna, which sits atop Crawford Hill, is on display in the park. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

 

Astronomical relevance today 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
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    Date: 2022-12-08 03:35:22
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The cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) of 3 K, discovered by Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias in 1965 is a breakthrough in cosmology.

 

References

Bibliography (books and published articles) 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 247
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    Date: 2022-12-08 03:36:09
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

  • Aaronson, Steve: The Light of Creation: An Interview with Arno A. Penzias and Robert W. Wilson. Bell Laboratories Record, January 1979, p. 12-18.

  • Abell, George O.: Exploration of the Universe. Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing (4th ed) 1982.

  • Bernstein, Jeremy: Three Degree Above Zero: Bell Labs in the Information Age. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons 1984.

  • Butowsky, Harry A., National Park Service, History Divsion: Astronomy and Astrophysics National Historic Landmark Theme Study. Google Books 1989.

  • Crawford, A.B.; Hogg, David C. & L.E. Hunt: Project Echo: A Horn-Reflector Antenna for Space Communication. In: The Bell System Technical Journal 40 (July 1961), Issue 4, p. 1095-1099.

  • Dicke, Robert H. ; Peebles, P.Jim E. ; Roll, P.G. ; Wilkinson, David T.: Cosmic Black-Body Radiation. In: Astrophysical Journal 142 (July 1965), p. 414-419.

  • Ferris, Timothy: The Red Limit: The Search for the Edge of the Universe. New York: Quill Press 1983, p. 141.

  • Friedman, Herbert: The Amazing Universe. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society 1975.

  • Hey, J.S.: The Evolution of Radio Astronomy. New York: Neale Watson Academic Publications, Inc. 1973.

  • Kirby-Smith, H.T.: U.S. Observatories: A Directory and Travel. Guide. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company 1976.

  • Learner, Richard: Astronomy Through the Telescope. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company 1981.

  • Penzias, Arno A. & Robert W. Wilson: A Measurement of Excess Antenna Temperature at 4080 Megacycles per Second. In: Astrophysical Journal 142 (July 1965), p. 419-421.

  • Penzias, Arno A. & Robert W. Wilson: A Measurement of the Flux Density of CAS A at 4080 Mc/s. In: Astrophysical Journal Letters (May 1965), p. 1149-1154.

  • Penzias, Arno A.: The Origin of the Elements. In: Science 205 (1979, 4406, p. 549-554.

 

Links to external sites 
  • InfoTheme: Astronomy from the Renaissance to the mid-twentieth century
    Entity: 247
    Subentity: 1
    Version: 5
    Status: PUB
    Date: 2022-12-08 03:42:08
    Author(s): Gudrun Wolfschmidt

 

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