Management Change Under Way at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced that a management change is under way at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The University of Central Florida (UCF) has begun formal transition activities to assume the operations and management of Arecibo Observatory, which sustained significant damage during Hurricane Maria last September.

The university will take over formal management and execute a program of research and education consistent with the objectives and priorities of the scientific community,” NSF said. The university will provide support and technical personnel to manage the observatory, its research, and educational activities.

One of the most significant and largest telescope facilities available to researchers, Arecibo Observatory is also home to the Arecibo Observatory Radio Club, KP4AO. It’s been reported that NSF has been looking to scale back its support for Arecibo. UCF said it plans major improvements for the observatory.

Under a cooperative agreement with NSF, UCF will head a new consortium comprising Universidad Metropolitana (UMET) in San Juan and Yang Enterprises, a Florida company that will oversee the 54-year-old observatory. Currently, the independent research center SRI International, UMET, and Universities Space Research Association (USRA) manage Arecibo, in cooperation with NSF, which will gradually reduce its role and funding over the next 5 years. The new contract officially begins on April 1. NSF currently supports Arecibo Observatory to the tune of approximately $8 million per year.

Repairs after damage by Hurricane Maria and upgrades to expand the capabilities are high on the to-do list. The facility’s iconic dish is 305 meters (about 1,000 feet) in diameter, and has an EIRP of 2.5 TW (pulsed) on 430 MHz.

“The observatory will provide a valuable new dimension to space science at UCF while creating more academic opportunities for students and faculty at UCF, in Puerto Rico, and beyond,” UCF President John C. Hitt said in a statement. “This agreement, made possible through partnerships, also ensures that the observatory will continue to make significant contributions to space science and mankind.” The agreement is valued at $20.15 million.

US Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) called the new contract “a win-win-win.” Nelson supported UCF’s bid to manage Arecibo and recently helped secure funding in Congress to repair damage to the telescope caused by Hurricane Maria.

“It’s good for UCF and Florida, it’s good for Puerto Rico, and it will enable thousands of scientists who do research at Arecibo each year to continue their work,” Nelson said.




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