Arecibo Observatory

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Arecibo Observatory
Arecibo radio telescope SJU 06 2019 6144.jpg
The Arecibo Telescope in 2019
Alternative namesNational Astronomy and Ionosphere Center OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Named after Arecibo   OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Organization University of Central Florida   OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Location Arecibo, Puerto Rico, United States of America OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Coordinates 18°20′48″N66°45′10″W / 18.34661°N 66.75278°W / 18.34661; -66.75278 Coordinates: 18°20′48″N66°45′10″W / 18.34661°N 66.75278°W / 18.34661; -66.75278
Altitude498 m (1,634 ft) OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
TelescopesArecibo 12m radio telescope
Arecibo Telescope   OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Commons-logo.svg Related media on Wikimedia Commons
National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center
Arecibo Observatory
Nearest cityArecibo
Area118 acres (48 ha)
Architect Kavanaugh, T. C.
Engineervon Seb, Inc., T. C. Kavanaugh of Praeger-Kavanagh, and Severud-Elstad-Krueger Associates [1]
NRHP reference No. 07000525
Added to NRHPSeptember 23, 2008 [2]

The Arecibo Observatory, also known as the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), is an observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico owned by the US National Science Foundation (NSF).


The observatory's main instrument was the Arecibo Telescope, a 305 m (1,000 ft) spherical reflector dish built into a natural sinkhole, with a cable-mount steerable receiver and several radar transmitters for emitting signals mounted 150 m (492 ft) above the dish. Completed in 1963, it was the world's largest single-aperture telescope for 53 years, surpassed in July 2016 by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China. Following two cable breaks supporting the receiver platform in the prior months, the NSF stated on November 19, 2020 it was decommissioning the telescope for safety concerns, but before controlled demolition could be conducted, the remaining cables failed on December 1, 2020, causing catastrophic structural failure to the telescope. No injuries were reported in the collapse. [3]

The observatory also includes a radio telescope, a Lidar facility, and a visitor's center, all which are expected to remain operational after the damage from the main telescope collapse is assessed. [4] [5]


Arecibo Telescope

The observatory's main feature was its large radio telescope, whose main collecting dish was an inverted spherical dome 1,000 feet (305 m) in diameter with an 869-foot (265 m) radius of curvature, [6] constructed inside a karst sinkhole. [7] The dish's surface was made of 38,778 perforated aluminum panels, each about 3 by 7 feet (1 by 2 m), supported by a mesh of steel cables. [6] The ground beneath supported shade-tolerant vegetation. [8] Two cable breaks, one in August 2020 and a second in November 2020, threatened the structural integrity of the support structure for the suspended platform and damaged the dish. As a result the NSF decided to decommission the telescope in November 2020, but before the demolition could begin, several of the remaining support cables suffered a critical failure and the support structure, antenna, and dome assembly all fell into the dish at 7:55 A.M. local time on December 1, 2020. [9] [10] The telescope was used as the backdrop of a sequence in GoldenEye, and has appeared in other Hollywood films. [11]

Additional telescopes

The Arecibo Observatory also has other facilities beyond the main telescope, including a 12-meter (39 ft) radio telescope intended for very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) with the main telescope; [12] and a LIDAR facility [13] whose research has continued since the main telescope's collapse.

Panorama arecibo telescope from observation deck.jpg
The Arecibo Radio Telescope as viewed from the observation deck, October 2013

Ángel Ramos Foundation Visitor Center

Logo of the observatory at the entrance gate Arecibo Observatory, sign at entrance gate.jpg
Logo of the observatory at the entrance gate

Opened in 1997, the Ángel Ramos Foundation Visitor Center features interactive exhibits and displays about the operations of the radio telescope, astronomy and atmospheric sciences. [14] The center is named after the financial foundation that honors Ángel Ramos, owner of the El Mundo newspaper and founder of Telemundo. The Foundation provided half of the funds to build the Visitor Center, with the remainder received from private donations and Cornell University.

The center, in collaboration with the Caribbean Astronomical Society, [15] host a series of Astronomical Nights throughout the year, which feature diverse discussions regarding exoplanets, and astronomical phenomena and discoveries (such as Comet ISON). The main purpose of the center is to increase public interest in astronomy, the observatory's research successes, and space endeavors.

List of directors

Source(s): [16] [ additional citation(s) needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Primary mirror

A primary mirror is the principal light-gathering surface of a reflecting telescope.

Radio telescope Directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy

A radio telescope is a specialized antenna and radio receiver used to detect radio waves from astronomical radio sources in the sky. Radio telescopes are the main observing instrument used in radio astronomy, which studies the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by astronomical objects, just as optical telescopes are the main observing instrument used in traditional optical astronomy which studies the light wave portion of the spectrum coming from astronomical objects. Unlike optical telescopes, radio telescopes can be used in the daytime as well as at night.

Frank Drake

Frank Donald Drake is an American astronomer and astrophysicist. He is involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, including the founding of SETI, mounting the first observational attempts at detecting extraterrestrial communications in 1960 in Project Ozma, developing the Drake equation, and as the creator of the Arecibo Message, a digital encoding of an astronomical and biological description of the Earth and its lifeforms for transmission into the cosmos.

Radio astronomy subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies

Radio astronomy is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies. The first detection of radio waves from an astronomical object was in 1932, when Karl Jansky at Bell Telephone Laboratories observed radiation coming from the Milky Way. Subsequent observations have identified a number of different sources of radio emission. These include stars and galaxies, as well as entirely new classes of objects, such as radio galaxies, quasars, pulsars, and masers. The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation, regarded as evidence for the Big Bang theory, was made through radio astronomy.

Arecibo may refer to:

Radar astronomy

Radar astronomy is a technique of observing nearby astronomical objects by reflecting microwaves off target objects and analyzing the reflections. This research has been conducted for six decades. Radar astronomy differs from radio astronomy in that the latter is a passive observation and the former an active one. Radar systems have been used for a wide range of solar system studies. The radar transmission may either be pulsed or continuous.

Green Bank Telescope Radio telescope in Green Bank, WV, US

The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in Green Bank, West Virginia, US is the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope. The Green Bank site was part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) until September 30, 2016. Since October 1, 2016, the telescope has been operated by the independent Green Bank Observatory. The telescope's name honors the late Senator Robert C. Byrd who represented West Virginia and who pushed the funding of the telescope through Congress.

Grote Reber

Grote Reber was an American pioneer of radio astronomy, which combined his interests in amateur radio and amateur astronomy. He was instrumental in investigating and extending Karl Jansky's pioneering work, and conducted the first sky survey in the radio frequencies.

Very Long Baseline Array

The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) is a system of ten radio telescopes which are operated remotely from their Array Operations Center located in Socorro, New Mexico, as a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). These ten radio antennas work together as an array that forms the longest system in the world that uses very long baseline interferometry. The longest baseline available in this interferometer is about 8,611 kilometers (5,351 mi).

The Joint Institute for Very Long Baseline Interferometry European Research Infrastructure Consortium (JIVE) was established by a decision of the European Commission in December 2014, and assumed the activities and responsibilities of the JIVE foundation, which was established in December 1993. JIVE's mandate is to support the operations and users of the European VLBI Network (EVN), in the widest sense.

William E. Gordon American astronomer

William Edwin Gordon was a physicist and astronomer. He was referred to as the "father of the Arecibo Observatory".

Sixto González Astronomer; director of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico

Sixto A. González was the Director of the Arecibo Observatory from September 29, 2003 to September 15, 2006. Arecibo Observatory was an astronomical observatory located in Puerto Rico. At the time of González's directorship Arecibo was the world's largest single dish radio telescope. González was the first Puerto Rican in the position of Director of the observatory.

Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope Radio telescope located in Guizhou Province, China

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, nicknamed Tianyan, is a radio telescope located in the Dawodang depression (大窝凼洼地), a natural basin in Pingtang County, Guizhou, southwest China. FAST has a fixed 500 m (1,600 ft) diameter dish constructed in a natural depression in the landscape. It is the world's largest filled-aperture radio telescope and the second-largest single-dish aperture, after the sparsely-filled RATAN-600 in Russia.

Arecibo Telescope Former radio telescope in the municipality of Arecibo, Puerto Rico

The Arecibo Telescope was a 305 m (1,000 ft) spherical reflector dish built into a natural sinkhole at the Arecibo Observatory. A cable-mount steerable receiver was mounted 150 m (492 ft) above the dish, and several radar transmitters for emitting signals. Completed in November 1963, the Arecibo Telescope was the world's largest single-aperture telescope for 53 years, surpassed in July 2016 by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China.

Tor Hagfors

Tor Hagfors was a Norwegian scientist, radio astronomer, radar expert and a pioneer in the studies of the interactions between electromagnetic waves and plasma. In the early 1960s he was one of a handful of pioneering theorists that independently developed a theory that explained the scattering of radio waves by the free electrons in a plasma and applied the result to the ionosphere. He became founding director of the new EISCAT facilities that were then under construction in 1975, by which time he already been director at most of the other incoherent scatter radar facilities in the world. The asteroid 1985 VD1 is named 7279 Hagfors after him.

Martha P. Haynes American astronomer

Martha Patricia Haynes is an American astronomer who specializes in radio astronomy and extragalactic astronomy. She is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University. She has been on a number of high-level committees within the US and International Astronomical Community, including Advisory Committee for the Division of Engineering and Physical Sciences of the National Academies (2003–2008) and Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Review. She was a Vice-President of the Executive Committee of the International Astronomical Union from 2006–2012, and has been on the Board of Trustees of Associated Universities Inc since 1994.

Riccardo Giovanelli is an Italian born astronomer. He is an emeritus professor of astronomy at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, United States.

Green Bank Observatory

The Green Bank Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the National Radio Quiet Zone in Green Bank, West Virginia, U.S. It is the operator of the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope.

Daniel R. Altschuler is a Uruguayan physicist linked in his professional activity to the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, where he was director from 1992 to 2003. He is a writer, known for his science outreach work, and is very sensitive to the distinction between science and pseudoscience. In 2010 he received the Andrew Gemant Award from the American Institute of Physics.


  1. "Radio-Radar Telescope Will Probe Solar System". Electrical Engineering. 80 (7): 561. July 1961. doi:10.1109/EE.1961.6433355.
  2. National Park Service (October 3, 2008). "Weekly List Actions". Archived from the original on March 29, 2013. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
  3. "NSF begins planning for decommissioning of Arecibo Observatory's 305-meter telescope due to safety concerns". Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  4. "Arecibo Observatory Telescope Collapses, Ending An Era Of World-Class Research". Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  5. "Huge Puerto Rico radio telescope, already damaged, collapses". AP NEWS. 2020-12-01. Retrieved 2020-12-03.
  6. 1 2 Goldsmith, P. F.; Baker, L. A.; Davis, M. M.; Giovanelli, R. (1995). "Multi-feed Systems for the Arecibo Gregorian". Astronomical Society of the Pacific Conference Series. 75: 90–98. Bibcode:1995ASPC...75...90G.
  7. "Telescope Description". National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center. Archived from the original on November 20, 2020. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  8. "Environmental Impact Statement for the Arecibo Observatory Arecibo, Puerto Rico (Draft)" (PDF). NSF. p. 66. At the Arecibo Observatory, a mix of shade-tolerant species have colonized the area beneath the 305-meter radio telescope dish.
  9. "Giant Arecibo radio telescope collapses in Puerto Rico". The Guardian . Associated Press. 1 December 2020. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  10. Coto, DÁNICA (December 1, 2020). "Huge Puerto Rico radio telescope, already damaged, collapses". Associated Press . Retrieved December 1, 2020 via Yahoo!.
  11. "Puerto Rico's Iconic Arecibo Telescope That Starred In James Bond Movie Collapses". Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  12. Roshi, D. Anish; Anderson, L. D.; Araya, E.; Balser, D.; Brisken, W.; Brum, C.; Campbell, D.; Chatterjee, S.; Churchwell, E.; Condon, J.; Cordes, J.; Cordova, F.; Fernandez, Y.; Gago, J.; Ghosh, T.; Goldsmith, P. F.; Heiles, C.; Hickson, D.; Jeffs, B.; Jones, K. M.; Lautenbach, J.; Lewis, B. M.; Lynch, R. S.; Manoharan, P. K.; Marshall, S.; Minchin, R.; Palliyaguru, N. T.; Perera, B. B. P.; Perillat, P.; Pinilla-Alonso, N.; Pisano, D. J.; Quintero, L.; Raizada, S.; Ransom, S. M.; Fernandez-Rodriguez, F. O.; Salter, C. J.; Santos, P.; Sulzer, M.; Taylor, P. A.; Venditti, F. C. F.; Venkataraman, A.; Virkki, A. K.; Wolszczan, A.; Womack, M.; Zambrano-Marin, L. F. (13 July 2019). "Astro2020 Activities and Projects White Paper: Arecibo Observatory in the Next Decade". arXiv:1907.06052 [astro-ph]. arXiv: 1907.06052 .
  13. "NSF begins planning for decommissioning of Arecibo Observatory's 305-meter telescope due to safety concerns [News Release 20-010]". Archived from the original on November 19, 2020. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  14. Visitor Center information Archived November 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  15. "Sociedad de Astronomia del Caribe". Archived from the original on May 5, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  16. Altschuler, Daniel; Salter, Chris (June 2014). "Early history of Arecibo Observatory". Physics Today. 67 (6): 12. Bibcode:2014PhT....67f..12A. doi: 10.1063/PT.3.2402 .
  17. January 24; 2007. "Tor Hagfors, astronomy professor and Arecibo pioneer, dies at age 76". Cornell Chronicle. Archived from the original on November 20, 2020. Retrieved November 20, 2020.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  18. Christiansen, Jen. "Pop Culture Pulsar: The Science Behind Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures Album Cover". Scientific American Blog Network. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  19. 1 2 Watson, Traci (November 2015). "Arecibo Observatory director quits after funding row". Nature. 527 (7577): 142–143. Bibcode:2015Natur.527..142W. doi: 10.1038/nature.2015.18745 . PMID   26560275.

Further reading