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Arecibo Observatory



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Astronomy

Radio Astronomy is the study of radio waves produced by a multitude of fascinating astronomical objects such as the Sun, planets, stars, pulsars, star-forming regions (i.e., birthplace of stars), gas clouds, galaxies, supernova remnants, and more. The radio signals from these objects give astronomers a plethora of physical information across vast distances and scales in our Universe, from a three-dimensional view of the energetic solar wind from our Sun, to the composition of exoplanetary atmospheres around other stars, to the motion of distant galaxies. To detect even the weakest radio signals requires a dish with a large surface area, and the enormity of the 305-meter Arecibo radio telescope allows astronomers to detect these faint radio waves from far-off regions of the Universe. The Radio Astronomy Group at Arecibo consists of scientists who are not only users of the telescope but who also use their expertise to help other astronomers to plan and carry out their observations. Explore below some current highlights of the exciting research done by both staff and astronomers all over the world at one of the largest single-dish radio telescopes on Earth, the Arecibo Observatory.
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Space & Atmospheric Sciences

Atmospheric Science is the investigation of the earth's gaseous envelope. Experiments performed at Arecibo measure upper atmosphere composition, temperature and densities in order to understand the controlling physical processes. The Arecibo Radio Telescope can measure the growth and decay of disturbances in the changing layers of charged particles which populate the region known as the ionosphere ( altitudes above 30 miles ). The "big dish" is also used to study plasma physics processes in the electrically charged regions of the earth's atmosphere. where radio waves are influenced most.

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Planetary Sciences

“The Arecibo Planetary Radar is used to study celestial bodies in our solar system such as planets, moons, asteroids and comets. Directed by the 305-meter reflector, a powerful beam of radio energy is transmitted in the direction of the target object. A small portion of this energy is reflected by the target, back in the direction of the Earth. This radio echo is processed then analyzed to yield information about the size, shape, spin, density, composition, surface properties, geology (e.g., ridges, craters, and boulders) of the object, and also allows to identify binary and triple asteroid systems. The Arecibo Planetary Radar System can measure the distance to an asteroid, typically millions of km away, with a precision of meters, and it can measure the speed of an asteroid, typically tens of kilometers per second, with a precision of millimeters per second. Arecibo’s precision can greatly refine asteroid orbits, aiding NASA in its congressionally mandated mission to study near-Earth objects to support planetary defense.”

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CAVEAT: The Arecibo Observatory is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.