The image is from Wikipedia Commons
The Arecibo Telescope in 2019
|Alternative names||National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center|
|Organization||University of Central Florida|
|Location||Arecibo, Puerto Rico, United States of America|
|Altitude||498 m (1,634 ft)|
|Telescopes||Arecibo 12m radio telescope
|Related media on Wikimedia Commons|
National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center
|Area||118 acres (48 ha)|
|Architect||Kavanaugh, T. C.|
|Engineer||von Seb, Inc., T. C. Kavanaugh of Praeger-Kavanagh, and Severud-Elstad-Krueger Associates|
|NRHP reference No.||07000525|
|Added to NRHP||September 23, 2008|
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 that it was decommissioning the telescope due to safety concerns. On December 1, 2020 the main telescope collapsed before controlled demolition could be conducted.
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.
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, constructed inside a karst sinkhole. 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. The ground beneath supported shade-tolerant vegetation.
Since its completion in November 1963, the Telescope had been used for radar astronomy and radio astronomy, and had been part of the Search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) program. It was also used by NASA for Near-Earth object detection. Since around 2006, NSF funding support for the telescope had waned as the Foundation directed funds to newer instruments, though academics petitioned to the NSF and Congress to continue support for the telescope. Numerous hurricanes, including Hurricane Maria, had damaged parts of the telescope, straining the reduced budget.
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. The NSF determined in November 2020 that it was safer to decommission the telescope rather than to try to repair it, but the telescope collapsed before a controlled demolition could be carried out. The remaining support cables from one tower failed around 7:56 a.m. local time on December 1, 2020, causing the receiver platform to fall into the dish and collapsing the telescope.
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; and a LIDAR facility whose research has continued since the main telescope's collapse.
Ángel Ramos Foundation Visitor Center
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. 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, host a series of Astronomical Nights throughout the year, which feature diverse discussions regarding exoplanets, astronomical phenomena, and discoveries (such as Comet ISON). The purposes of the center are to increase public interest in astronomy, the observatory's research successes, and space endeavors.
List of directors
- 1960–1965: William E. Gordon
- 1965–1966: John W. Findlay
- 1966–1968: Frank Drake
- 1968–1971: Gordon Pettengill
- 1971–1973: Tor Hagfors
- 1973–1982: Harold D. Craft Jr.
- 1982–1987: Donald B. Campbell
- 1987–1988: Riccardo Giovanelli
- 1988–1992: Michael M. Davis
- 1992–2003: Daniel R. Altschuler
- 2003–2006: Sixto A. González
- 2006–2007: Timothy H. Hankins
- 2007–2008: Robert B. Kerr
- 2008–2011: Michael C. Nolan
- 2011–2015: Robert B. Kerr
- 2016–present: Francisco Córdova
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At the Arecibo Observatory, a mix of shade-tolerant species have colonized the area beneath the 305-meter radio telescope dish.
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- "NSF begins planning for decommissioning of Arecibo Observatory's 305-meter telescope due to safety concerns [News Release 20-010]". www.nsf.gov. Archived from the original on November 19, 2020. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
- Visitor Center information Archived November 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
- "Sociedad de Astronomia del Caribe". www.sociedadastronomia.com. Archived from the original on May 5, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
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- Friedlander, Blaine (November 14, 1997). "Research rockets, including an experiment from Cornell, are scheduled for launch into the ionosphere next year from Puerto Rico". Cornell University.
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- Blaine Friedlander (June 10, 2008). "Arecibo joins global network to create 6,000-mile (9,700 km) telescope". EurekAlert.
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- Henry Fountain (December 25, 2007). "Arecibo Radio Telescope Is Back in Business After 6-Month Spruce-Up". New York Times.
- Entry into the National Register of Historic Places
- Cohen, Marshall H. (2009). "Genesis of the 1000-foot Arecibo Dish". Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage. 12: 141–152. Bibcode:2009JAHH...12..141C. S2CID 18990068.
- Altschuler, Daniel R.; Salter, Christopher J. (2013). "The Arecibo Observatory: Fifty astronomical years". Physics Today. 66 (11): 43. Bibcode:2013PhT....66k..43A. doi:10.1063/PT.3.2179.
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