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Why you should visit Arecibo Observatory

Things to do in Puerto Rico

The Arecibo Observatory is closed.

A 1,000-foot diameter dish keeps us safe from asteroids, beamed a three-minute pictorial message 23,000 light-years away to the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, and has assisted in numerous notable discoveries. It’s just three of the reasons why you should visit the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. When it comes to telescopes, there are few as awe-inspiring as this one.

Where is the Arecibo Radio Telescope

Arecibo is in the Northern Coastal Valley region of Puerto Rico. The area is marked by stark contrasts.  It borders the Atlantic Ocean to the north and numerous caves, sinkholes, and wooded hills to the south.

Arecibo Observatory Facts

The Arecibo Observatory was the brainchild of Cornell University professor William E. Gordon. Built into a natural limestone sinkhole in 1964, the telescope is made of nearly 40,000 perforated aluminum panels covering an area of about twenty acres. This is an extraordinary site,  at 167 feet deep, the Arecibo telescope has been the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world.  

How do You Get to Arecibo Observatory?

Arecibo Radio Telescope is approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes from San Juan. As you get closer to the site, navigating through narrow one-lane roads, twisting and turning up and around bends, is just part of the adventure of visiting the area. It’s a challenging drive for some, but there are reputable tours combining a visit to the Arecibo Radio Telescope with other activities in the area.

Arecibo Observatory Visitor Center

A welcoming visitor’s center ushers visitors into a world of interactive exhibits and friendly and informative guides are on-hand to answer all questions. There’s a 20-minute video and then the anticipated opportunity to visit the observation deck to view the breathtaking radio telescope.

Many people will recognize the Arecibo Telescope for its roles in Hollywood movies. The giant telescope was featured prominently in the final scene of the James Bond film Goldeneye and was also the antenna used by Jody Foster in her search for alien signals in the movie Contact.

Arecibo Observatory Message

Astronomers Frank Drake and Carl Sagan put together a binary communication known as the Arecibo message. It was sent from the Arecibo Observatory in 1974.

At the visitor’s center, visitors see a graphic showing the Arecibo message.  It was directed to the star cluster known as M13.  If eventually decoded by an intelligent race, the extraterrestrial recipients will be greeted with a 23 by 73-pixel bitmap image depicting a stick figure of a human being, a human DNA strand, chemical formulas, our solar system, and even an image of the telescope itself.

Arecibo Observatory Tour

Those who are interested in an in-depth look at the reflector and what goes on behind the scenes, an Arecibo Observatory VIP tour is available during certain times of the day. A 30 minute guided tour takes visitors to the engineering offices, the control room, and to the edge of the 1,000 feet (305 meters) reflector.

Arecibo Observatory Discoveries

As one might expect with such a large telescope, some big findings have been made at Arecibo. Most notably, the observatory is known for discovering the first planets outside our solar system and measuring the rotation rate of the planet Mercury.  It was also used by Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor, of Princeton University, New Jersey, to pinpoint a pair of neutron stars or pulsars. The discovery, the first of a pulsar binary, was of immense importance in understanding the gravitational theory and earned the pair the 1993 Nobel Prize for Physics. 

The Arecibo telescope has also played a key role in studying celestial events known as fast radio bursts which are split-second blasts of radio waves that appear in the sky and have traveled billions of light-years across the cosmos.

Arecibo Today

Today, the telescope is used in the very important role of guarding our planet against the threat of asteroids. Seeking answers to the unknown,  the telescope is ready and waiting for the day an intelligent race contacts us.

Not just for science and astronomy enthusiasts, this is a place that fosters and inspires scientific interest in everyone! I encourage anyone who travels to Puerto Rico to visit the Arecibo Observatory.

Open to the public for self-guided and VIP guided tours. 

Route 625, Bo. Esperanza, Arecibo, PR 00612,-66.7550083,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x8c02db84dca94fc1:0x1ce481f2793da255!8m2!3d18.3464019!4d-66.7528196

(787) 878-2612
Arecibo Observatory

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