We love to travel (as you can tell from my bog posts) and sharing our stories and adventures. Whenever we mention our visit to Puerto Rico, it always seems intriguing to people. A few weeks back I shared our visit to the Bacardi Rum Plant, and today I want to share our experience at the Arecibo Observatory.This 1000 foot (305 meter) telescope is the world’s largest single-aperture telescope. It contains the largest curved focusing dish on Earth, giving Arecibo the largest electromagnetic-wave-gathering capacity. The dish surface is made of 38,778 perforated aluminum panels, each about 3 by 6 feet (1 by 2 m), supported by a mesh of steel cables. It is used in three major areas of research: radio astronomy, atmospheric science, and radar astronomy.
We decided we had to see it while there and made it happen even though we only had a couple of days. We are so glad we did. It is extremely impressive. The first thing we did was walk around the visitor’s center. Off course, you couldn’t miss the HUGE dish as we pulled up, but we headed inside first to learn a little bit about it. Their building consists of 1000 square feet which they have separated into several areas: The Auditorium, Tools and Technology, The Earth and Solar System, and the Work at Arecibo.
I think my favorite section was the Tolld and Technology section (duh, lol) because It included an interactive model of the Arecibo radio telescope and a visual tour of the observatory. There were also some exhibits which provided hands-on experiences on the Doppler effect, light and color, the electromagnetic spectrum, and spectroscopy, the operation of the telescope, the optical laboratory and the HF facility. It was a pretty exciting section which we both enjoyed immensely.
The Earth and Solar System section was great too, but it also brought back memories of science and astronomy classes, lol. Like I said it was pretty cool though. This area had a lot of basic information about the planets, the sun, asteroids and comets. It includes a meteorite collection, a planetary orrery, an aerial map of Puerto Rico, and the “Powers of Ten” video presentation. The Earth exhibit also described the physical characteristics of our changing world (interior, surface and atmosphere), and the tools and techniques scientists use to study the planet. After we had fun exploring the Visitor Center, we headed outside to see this massive dish. Originally we had wanted to get closer to it, but it was a very long uphill hike and we didn’t have any water, so we just enjoyed the view from their observation deck. While we were watching the dish moved into another position which was very exciting. We had both been wondering if we would get to see it move, so that was pretty cool. After we left it was lunch time so we grabbed a sandwich near the observatory and found a nice place in the shade to eat and watch the scope. We talked about going back in the evening to see if it was lit, etc, but we never did make it back. Guess we should have asked someone if they knew. If you have been, and happen to know, please share and let us know. It would be greatly appreciated. Here is a link to their website, if you want more information.
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