Arecibo Observatory at Risk, but Defended

Photo by Nadia Drake

If you’re a fan of James Bond films, then chances are you’ve seen the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on a screen at some point–it was the location for the climax of Goldeneye, where Pierce Brosnan debuted as the British spy character. The largest radio telescope in the world, and for several decades managed by Cornell University, Arecibo Observatory is now threatened with defunding in the coming year, but the community around it in Puerto Rico, as Nadia Drake (whose father once directed the Observatory) reports for NatGeo and Science Friday, is rallying around it:

SAN JUAN and ARECIBO, Puerto Rico — Francisco Cordova just started his job as director of Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest radio telescope. But at a public meeting on day two of his new post, he was already facing the iconic telescope’s potential demolition.

At meetings June 7 in San Juan and Arecibo, students, scientists, observatory staff and community members spoke about what would be lost in terms of science and education if the observatory were to close, an outcome that no one in attendance seemed to find acceptable in any way. As the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, Arecibo is famous for searching for distant galaxies,  gravitational waves, and signs of extraterrestrial life.

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