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With Earth’s Largest Telescope Threatened, Its Homeland Rallies

10 Jun 2016, 14:35 UTC
With Earth’s Largest Telescope Threatened, Its Homeland Rallies H. Schweiker/WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF
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Worlds largest single-dish radio telescope, the Arecibo Observatory, Arecibo, Puerto Rico. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
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.
The meetings gave the community a chance to speak directly to representatives from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. science agency responsible for deciding Arecibo’s fate, and which is now facing tough choices thanks to flatlined budgets.
“It’s a concern, but I know we will find a way,” Cordova says.
Cordova, like many Puerto Ricans, visited Arecibo when he was a kid. Back then, ...

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