Arecibo Observatory

In June of 2016 I started my bucket list journey of visiting the world’s great telescopes. After a long tough year of teacher Geology and Astronomy I started my journey with a tropical vacation to Puerto Rico to visit the Arecibo National Radio Observatory.  For travel details go to the very bottom of this page.

http://www.naic.edu/

20160616_134723

At the dish! The long pointy antenna is for atmospheric studies while the round mushroom looking horn is for listening to deep space!

 

I knew that I wanted to visit this observatory ever since I saw the movie Contact.  I had seen the observatory before in dozens of documentaries ever since the 80’s, but the movie just made it more exciting and quite romantic to journey so far away from Texas to see this machine dedicated to listening to the secrets of the universe!

20160616_134845

The amazing scenery of the Guajataca rain forest where the dish resides.

 

I’ve traveled around the world but I’ve never been to a rain forest and PR is full of them!  Of course… The day I went to go visit observatory I learned of its possible closure due to budget cuts:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/worlds-largest-radio-telescope-faces-retirement/

It is currently rebranding itself into searching for more Near Earth Objects and trying to gain public interest in this way:

http://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html

 

20160616_135350

the 96 foot line “Line Feed” receiver and transmitter used to study our own ionosphere.

A wonderful link to all the cool hardware on the dish is here, most of the specifications:

http://egg.astro.cornell.edu/alfalfa/ugradteam/pdf13/Greg_AreciboIntroduction.pdf

 

20160616_140359

I can’t remember what the antennae are at the base of the dish, I want to say they are for more terrestrial atmospheric studies.

20160616_140924

an image of the carriage house that holds the receiving and transmitting equipment. The picture simply doesn’t do justice, it is absolutely massive.

20160616_144110

I believe this is an early piece of radio equipment, although, it could be a hard drive!?

20160616_144128

an early magnetic reel-to-reel tape storage unit.

20160616_144149

An early tele-type machine used to communicate prior to any type of internet or fax.

IMG_20160616_100446

Hurricanes are an issue, so check the weather when you go. I went during June so very little risk.

IMG_20160616_133229

These are images of the extremely tall vertical anchors that keep the secondary antennae and carriage house suspended.

IMG_20160616_133520

IMG_20160616_134303

IMG_20160616_134324

IMG_20160616_134344

IMG_20160616_134348 20160616_134528

20160616_134623

20160616_134649

TRAVEL DETAILS – HOW, WHERE, WHEN:

Traveling there is easy.  I flew on a great flight from JetBlue from Austin to Fort. Lauderdale then to San Juan.  Airplane was recent, clean and the staff were awesome – the price was terrific too.

I stayed at an amazing Airbnb house share located a block away from the beach and incredibly close to all kinds of food.  Hit up Airbnb for this listing “Spacious loft steps from the beach”:  https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/7601006

Anything Sylvia runs is amazing, she’s a great decorator around that area and is always available via text or phone call.  The room was waaaaay more space than I needed for one single person, it is plenty big for a small family.  Incredibly clean, full kitchen (no microwave though), great shower and bed plus dining room!

I rented a little economy car at the airport upon landing from Hertz.  I had GPS on my tmobile phone the entire time so driving around was a breeze.  The highways in PR are quite good and look like American highways, but once you get into the rain forest you need to be very cautious since the road conditions are pretty bad.  A jeep would’ve helped, and you can rent them, but just watch out for numerous potholes and whole sections of pavement that are missing due to constant rain.  Watch out for animals too!!  There are hundreds of blind curves up and down the road to get there, but it’s worth it, just go slow and take your time – the observatory ain’t closed yet!!

The Observatory is NOT near San Juan, you must drive about 90 minutes / 2 hours out.  The scenery is amazing on the way there and there are a few cool suburbs you could check out as well.  Be sure and get there early with enough time to drive and check the place out.  I think it closes around 4pm, you don’t want to be driving down those roads at night.

Once you’re there, the Arecibo Observatory is absolutely breathtaking…  To witness a piece of engineering of such enormous scale dedicated to listening to the silent whispers of the universe, I was in awe and heaven at the same time…

If you have more questions, please feel free to ask:  texasdave2@gmail.com