Management Update: Statement from the Director (April 7, 2021)



To the whole community,

The Arecibo Observatory has been a beacon of science and ground breaking discoveries for more than 60 years, helping us better understand the universe around us, and serving as an inspiration to new generations of scientists and engineers across the world. It has also become a part of the culture of Puerto Rico, an iconic place serving as a clear favorite for school trips and family days. After the collapse of the 900-ton platform of the main Arecibo telescope, we have been flooded by good wishes and support from the science and broader communities. I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your support, engagement and sincere willingness to help. The staff at AO, and me personally, truly appreciate your work that serves as inspiration as we look toward the future of this historic facility. Environmental remediation is occurring swiftly, with multiple teams addressing concerns. So far, the impact has been minimal. Debris removal is expected to continue for several months, as the last portions of the platform are removed and sent for recycling. A salvage committee has been formed with current Arecibo and NSF staff and members of the science community, and historians to provide guidance on identifying parts of the telescope that have clear historical significance. Coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is also taking place.

We continue making strides in increasing the overall support for more scientific capability at the Arecibo Observatory. In the past six weeks, five different proposals have been submitted to a variety of funding agencies, each requesting a paticular instrumental capability that will help enabling immediate cutting-edge science reseach as the more comprehensive and ambitious long-term plans mature. We also continue to advance our short-term science plans around existing instrumentation and have performed a complete realignment (and budgeting) of the grants supporting AO. This includes all major science specific grants, the NSF operations award, the NASA NEO grant, and the NSF’s Hurricane Restoration award. Moreover, we have temporarily reassigned staff members to support areas of need and are committed to helping restart previously halted science activities as quickly as possible.

The EPO team continues its mission of providing top notch informal education activities and have quickly established new exhibits at the Ecoexploratorio in San Juan and C3TEC centers in Caguas. We are working hard to secure the remaining structural elements close to the Science and Visitors Center, in an effort to reopen that center before the end of the year. The science team at Arecibo, aligned with members of the community, has developed the Next Generation Arecibo Telescope (NGAT) concept, which we at UCF feel closely aligns with the needs of the community.

We have been working hard to continue to receive endorsements from key institutions and members of the community, both locally and internationally, including some encouraging letters from individuals such as Dr. John Mather, American astrophysicist, cosmologist and Nobel Laureate and Dr. Linda Elkins-Tanton, PI of NASA’s Psyche mission. We appreciate everyone who has provided their endorsement. We also continue meeting with key stakeholders from government and private enterprises that may be able to provide funding for a future instrument. These meetings have been ongoing for the last several weeks. You will continue to hear a lot of Arecibo in the upcoming year, with a new AAS (splinter meeting) and key talks at CEDAR, URSI, LPSC, DPS, AGU and at the upcoming NSF workshop for ideas on the Future of AO. As always, thank you for your support and engagement. Sincerely,

Eng. Francisco Córdova, MSCE, P.E.
Director of the Arecibo Observatory

Communications Director
Ricardo Correa
Arecibo Observatory
787-878-2612 ext. 615

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