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Byelliot.gonzalez01 April 2022 EPO
On March 10th, 2022, the doors to the Ángel Ramos Foundation Science and Visitor Center at the Arecibo Observatory were opened once again to excited crowds of students and the general public. It is the first time anyone from the public has been permitted to visit the observatory since just before the collapse of the 305 meter radio telescope in December of 2020. Fortunately, the majority of the Science & Visitor Center suffered only minor damages at that time.
“The Learning Center, where we offer workshops for students and teachers, was the only area that did endure significant damage, but it has since been repaired and will reopen soon for educational programs,” says Dr. Carlos Padín Bibiloni, Director of the Science & Visitor Center.
Every year the Arecibo Observatory’s Science and Visitor Center has drawn thousands of people from across the island of Puerto Rico and from around the globe who were curious to view what was once the largest single dish telescope in the world.
“The Science and Visitor center is a fundamental component of the Arecibo Observatory’s efforts in public outreach and education. We hope to continue inspiring the students to pursue careers in STEM and to provoke in them a curiosity in space science,” says Dr. Padín Bibliono.
Visitors once again have access to the outdoor area where they can view the areas of the telescope that remain intact. Key pieces of the damaged telescope are now on display as exhibits along the path to, and within, the Science and Visitor Center. Other salvaged parts of the telescope may become part of exhibits in museums or universities in Puerto Rico and beyond.
“It was important for us to incorporate the recovered pieces of the telescope into the Science & Visitor Center so that the visitors have a sense of the scope and scale of the 305 meter telescope,” says Ricardo R. Correa, Director of Communications at AO. “Some of these items actually provide the public with a new, unique view of the instrumentation that was inside of the Gregorian Dome that were never visible in the past.”
While the Science & Visitor Center now serves, in part, as a way to encapsulate the memory of the 305 meter telescope, its primary purpose is still to teach and inspire.
“The Arecibo Observatory has always been emblematic of dreaming big and doing incredible science,” Mr. Correa. “The exhibits, the history, and the science showcased in the Science & Visitor Center are emblematic of how one vision and one instrument can significantly advance our knowledge of the universe. In fact, the documentary The Biggest Dream was made to illustrate exactly that.”
The Science & Visitor Center is also an important reminder that even though the large radio telescope is no longer operational, there is still a significant amount of ongoing observations and research at the observatory.
New observations continue to be conducted from the Arecibo LIDAR facility, the Remote Optical Facility, the Callisto Radio Spectrometer, the 12 meter radio telescope, and the upcoming PRISMA facility.
Furthermore, the immense amount of data collected over the telescope’s five decades of operation is expected to harbor an untold numbers of discoveries. Scientists continue to analyze that data and have implemented a data mining technique through the Big Data Program to parse through and find sensitive patterns that may have been missed when the observations were first taken.
“The breadth and depth of the archived data is still to be fully explored,” says Dr. Noemí Pinilla-Alonso, Science Manager for AO. “The AO science group is working hard to use that data and our new observations to expand our knowledge of the complex functioning of the universe, our place in the Solar System, and of the fragility of our environment.”
“We are just so glad we can once again share our science and the excitement and inspiration that is intrinsic to the Arecibo Observatory with our visitors once again,” adds Dr. Pinilla-Alonso.
Article written by Dr. Tracy Becker - AO Collaborator / SwRI Research Scientist
Arecibo Media Contact
Keywords: arecibo, observatory, angel, ramos, foundation, uagm, visitor, center