Another stop that I made on my recent vacation was at the largest radiotelescope on earth, the Arecibo Observatory. I am not going to go into all the technical aspects of the observatory, but if you would like to know more about it go to www.naic.edu . Their website is full of all kinds of information and links to other sites, enough to satisfy the hard core radioastronomer.
Here’s my take on the trip to Arecibo Observatory with pictures to go along with it.
After an hour and half ride from Rincon, the town I was staying in, I got off the main hiway in the town of Arecibo. Now, I am thinking that this was going to be interesting, trying to locate the observatory in the middle of the mountains, even though I had some maps to get there.
I was plesently surprised when I saw this large road sign directing me where to go. After following these signs that were posted every several miles or so, I found myself deep in the mountains of Puerto Rico about 35 minutes from the first sign. I drove over a sharp rise in the road and what did I see? I do believe I am almost there.
Now, this picture is a good mile or so from the entrance, so I knew this telescope is going to be BIG!
After pulling into the entrance and getting the once over by 3 armed guards, we got the directions to pull ahead and park in the visitor parking lot just through this gateway.
It was great to finally get here. Little did I know it was another good 5-10 minute walk up steep stair cases, and along this road for about 200 yards until we saw the Angel Ramos Foundation Visitor Center.
After paying the entrance fee of $6.00, your immediately encouraged to watch a 15 minute movie “A day in the life of the Arecibo Observatory”. A movie that apparently was done in the 1990’s needs to be updated badly. When your let out of the movie, you get to wonder around a rather impressive interactive museum/visitors center about the Observatory and astronomy in general. I was impressed with all of the up to date information and hands-on exhibits in this two story building. You could even control a mini-Arecibo telescope model if you wanted to.
Finally, you find yourself outside on the viewing platform looking down at what you came to see.
The world’s Largest Radiotelescope with it’s 1000 foot dish! It was so big, I could not get it all in one shot even though I was shooting with a 20 mm lens!
What I did to get as much as I could, I took four separate images, and stictched them into this panorama. It looks much better when it is seen in a larger format, but, this is all you can see from the viewing platform.
Even after seeing it in person, it is hard to believe so much history was made here. After starring in two movies in the past 15 years, the place is actually falling apart. Arecibo’s funding has been drastically cut, and there is a chance that it will be shut down in the next several years. The visable signs of it’s age are everywhere. In the dish, on the antennas, and even the jungle looks like it is encroaching closer and closer. If you do decide to see the world’s largest radiotelescope do it sooner than later. All in all, a facinating, informative, day trip on the “Enchanted Island” of Puerto Rico.