February 16, 2003

Afternoon at Arecibo

Today was another one of those days in which I deeply appreciate the life I have. By visiting the radio telescope at Arecibo I was making real something that was previously only a picture in magazine articles. I don't think I ever imagined actually being here. The observatory is about an hour and a half away from San Juan, the last third of those miles along twisty one-lane country roads. When over the farms and flowering trees I first glimpsed a gray spire poking the sky far away, I thought that couldn't be it... it's too big. When I arrived, finally, I was blown away by the size of the structures. Four concrete towers hold the cables in place that house the instruments at the focal point of the of parabola. Most amazing, there was a walkway strung like a rope bridge over the bowl so that the people here can get to the instrumentation. Not a job for phobics..

More pictures here.

Arecibo was one of the hotspots for the SETI project before Congress killed off public support for that. More recently it's been mapping Venus, Mercury and various asteroids as well as deep space quasars, pulsars, whoknowswhatsars. Someday the first hello will cut through the noise. Maybe here.



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