The Arecibo Observatory (AO) - located on Arecibo, Puerto Rico - is the most powerful and sensitive single-dish radio telescope in the world. The telescope houses the world’s most powerful planetary radar system, which is responsible for critical follow-up observations of near earth asteroids. It was built in 1960 with the initiative of Cornell Professor William E. Gordon. Its initial intention was to study the Earth’s ionosphere, but later it was found that it was far more powerful than they originally thought. The location came with many benefits for the study of the ionosphere, planets, and objects that pass close to the earth, due to its proximity to the equator.
For decades, the Arecibo Observatory has played a vital role in space related scientific research. Scientists from around the world have come to the AO to conduct research and collect data for their investigations. It is also an iconic tourist attraction for both locals and foreigners who come to visit the island, which helps generate profit for the small and medium-sized local businesses near the telescope. For a few years now, AO has been focused on promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields to the youth of the island, and also providing research programs and virtual classes for high school students, undergrad students and teachers to further deepen their knowledge of STEM related fields as well as gain experience. AO isn’t just a telescope, but an important component of our science and local community, and also the astronomical community as a whole.