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Massachusetts Club Offers Support to Arecibo Observatory Following Earthquakes

01/16/2020

Although not in the hardest-hit earthquake zone, Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory nonetheless has been affected by the recent spate of earthquakes and aftershocks. The landmark Arecibo radio telescope and ionospheric radar facility was a victim of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Members of the Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club (NVARC) have stepped up to assist in support and recovery efforts for the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope and ionospheric radar facility. NVARC members Phil Erickson, W1PJE; Rod Hersh, WA1TAC, and Jim Wilber, AB1WQ, participated in daily scheduled radio contacts with Arecibo’s lead telescope operator and spectrum manager Angel Vazquez, WP3R. Other NVARC volunteered to serve as back-up stations.

“All AO staff members are safe, and our technical teams have completed preliminary visual analysis of the primary structure and have found no immediate damage/issues, however a more detailed inspection needs to be completed once the aftershocks subside,” said Francisco Córdova, Arecibo Observatory’s director, at the University of Central Florida.

Site operations have been suspended at least through January 15, and access is limited to essential personnel.

Over several days, when commercial power and water were not available near Arecibo, club members inquired about potential assistance. Although conditions are slowly improving on the northern portion of the island where the observatory is located, Vazquez noted that thousands of people displaced from their homes in the hard-hit southern part of the island had to camp outside, due to extensive structural damage and ongoing aftershocks.

NVARC members were also able to provide messages of support from MIT’s Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts, and from program officers at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Geospace Facilities Division in Washington, DC. NSF funds the observation programs and scientific research at Arecibo Observatory. Radio contacts will continue as recovery proceeds in Puerto Rico.

 



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