Arecibo Observatory
Vol. 5 Spring 2020

Upcoming Events
AO Colloquium
AO Colloquium on March 24th POSTPONED to a later date due to travel-related restrictions. Continue to check here for updates.
Single Dish Training Workshop

Green Bank Observatory and Arecibo Observatory Single Dish and Observer Training Workhops, originally scheduled for May 11-20, are postponed.

Planetary Science Decadal Survey White Paper Call

f13b0fbb-2787-43e5-88f4-34ef9c4feed5.pngThe Arecibo Observatory invites the community with interest in the following topics to contribute or support our Planetary Science Decadal Survey white papers:

  • Physical characterization of NEOs using ground-based radar
  • Radar tomography of small bodies
  • Radar observations in support of planetary missions
  • The importance of planetary radar infrastructure for planetary defense
  • Passive microwave measurements
  • Next decade of planetary radar infrastructure

Email Dr. Anne Virkki with your topic interest(s) to be added to the list of co-authors and co-signers for these in-prep White Papers.

Staff from AO would like to collaborate with and support authors of any other white papers being submitted that involve: Characterization of the surface of NEOs or Terrestrial Planets Future Planetary Exploration Mission Support (e.g. planned or proposed missions to Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Moon, asteroids etc.) Human Exploration & Operations If you are leading such a white paper and would like support from the Arecibo Observatory, please contact Dr. Noemí Pinilla Alonso.

Science Highlights

Arecibo Helps Identify Magnetar at Core of “the Cow”

The Arecibo Observatory was one of 21 telescopes involved in the large-scale European Very Large Baseline Interferometry Network (EVN) radio observations of the astronomical explosion AT2018cow (“the Cow”), resulting in the detection of a magnetar - a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field. Read the EVN Press Release

+ Read More

Arecibo Observatory re-enters VLBI network with 21st-century backend:

AO, with its recently upgraded Very Long Baseline Interferometer (VLBI) backend, successfully detected fringes in concert with antennae in the European VLBI Network (EVN). The upgraded system makes the AO VLBI facility on par with other observatories in the world. Commissioning of the new system with the High-sensitivity Array is underway.

Arecibo, Puerto Rico vs. Logan, Utah: Seasonal Differences in the Upper Atmosphere

Arecibo scientist Dr. Shika Raizada co-authored a recent study investigating how the secondary sodium layer in the Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere varies seasonally and by latitude from the comparison of lidar observations made by AO and the Utah State University. The study, led by Dr. Dr. Xuguang Cai, was published in the JGR Space Physics and can be found here.

+ Read More


REU Student Mishaal Jan Publishes Summer Research Study about Massive Star Forming Region

Mishaal I. Jan, a 2019 Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) summer student at the Arecibo Observatory, recently published her summer poject on the detection of radio recombination lines in one of the most active star forming regions of our galaxy. in the 2020 Compendium of Undergraduate Research in Astronomy and Space Physics.

+ Read More


Arecibo Observatory discovers moon orbiting near-Earth asteroid

Radar images obtained in February from the Arecibo Observatory revealed that the near-Earth asteroid 2020 BX12 is a binary asteroid!.

AO Stories
Pulsar Astronomy and Physics at the Arecibo Observatory with Dr. Joanna Rankin

Dr. Joanna Rankin, Professor Emerita of the Department of Physics at the University of Vermont and longtime AO user, visited with science and management staff at the Arecibo Observatory, the University of Central Florida, and the Florida Space Institute.
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Transforming AO into a Classroom with Professor Qihou Zhou

The Undergraduate Hands-on Experience with Incoherent Scatter Radar course brings students from the Miami University in Ohio to the Arecibo Observatory each January. Learn more about the program from Dr. Qihou Zhou, program lead and former AO staff.
+ Read More

Recent Events

AO Science at AAS, AOGS

9dde3329-4cc3-4026-87cf-c18146179d4c.png 2a1fbd80-3c54-4dc8-a679-d02af81a9bd8.png

At the 235th AAS meeting hosted in January, 2020, there were over 20 posters and oral presentations related to work done at the AO and an Arecibo Observatory Open House special session.

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2019 REUT Students’ Research & Presentations

The 2019 Research Experience for Undergraduates & Teachers (REUT) program culminated in a number of fantastic research projects that have been or will be presented at six different conferences across the country, including the AAS, AGU, SHINE, GMIS, ERN, and DPS.

JWST Training Workshop - Participants

Arecibo Hosts JWST Training Workshop

On Feb 20 - 21, the Arecibo Observatory hosted a workshop to train Puerto Rican astronomers on the software needed to apply for time on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is expected to launch in March 2021. + Read More


NANOGrav Workshop Hosted at UCF

UCF hosted the NANOGrav semi-annual science meeting March 4 - 6th, which included a hands-on workshop for undergraduate students and a public talk by Dr. Sarah Vigeland.

+ Read More


Planets 2020 Conference

The Planets 2020 conference, hosted on March 2 - 6 in Chile by the ALMA observatory, was designed to identify synergetic opportunities between ground- and space-based observatories with planetary spacecraft missions. AO Research Scientist Dr. Flaviane Venditti gave a presentation highlighting the planetary radar program at AO and the many existing partnerships between Arecibo radar and planetary missions, with an invitation for new, future collaborative opportunities.


Arecibo Observatory Management Update Regarding COVID-19 Pandemic

48105d0b-2180-4447-979e-fecad4a47dc2.jpg The Arecibo Observatory’s priority is the health and safety of the staff and our users. In response to COVID-19 and in order to comply with restrictions implemented by the Government of Puerto Rico via executive order OS-2020-23, the Arecibo observatory will be implementing the following workplace changes: All AO science and science support staff will be working remotely beginning on March 16, 2020. We encourage the use of email if need to contact an AO staff member. No visitors will be allowed on the facility until further notice. If you planned on visiting the facility in the upcoming weeks, please contact us in order to discuss the details of your travel arrangement. + Read More

Update on the Status of AO Following Earthquakes in Puerto Rico

As you know Puerto Rico has been impacted with a series of significant earthquakes throughout the first weeks of 2020. 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.

"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..." - Eng. Francisco Cordova, Director of the Arecibo Observatory

Status Update on the 430 MHz Transmitter

5d6096be-8a95-489c-86b5-2b9d39ef5c25.png Arecibo’s 430 MHz transmitter system was shut down in late 2019 following a series of long-standing issues that were exacerbated by water damage to the system during Hurricane Maria in 2017 and culminated in the loss of two klystrons due to transmitter malfunctions in 2019. The AO staff are currently working with [Diversified Technologies Inc.] (DTI) to install a new transmitter system that will include a solid-state modulator and a capacitor bank from the [Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility]. The expected upgrades will produce a system with higher reliability, facilitate future maintenance, and provide better protection for the klystrons, in addition to many other improvements. We will continue to share updates on the status of the new transmitter system.

S-Band Transmitter Controller Upgrades

We have begun upgrades to the planetary radar system’s S-Band transmitter controller at Arecibo. Continental Electronics Corporation recently completed a site visit and we estimate completion of the upgrades in CY2021 Q3. All of the S-band electronics will be replaced in order to extend the life and reliability of the transmitter and monitoring capabilities of the system. This will allow us to track the performance of the transmitter and klystrons individually and with higher fidelity.

The 2020 AO Colloquium Series is in full swing!

On January 21st, Dr. Michael Denton presented “Unsolved Problems in Plasmaspheric Physics.” Check out his talk and interview here, and read more about Dr. Denton’s visit here!

On January 28th, Dr. Alain Herique presented “Direct Observations of Small Bodies’ Interiors with Radar Onboard Planetary Probes”. Watch his talk and interview here and read more about Dr. Herique’s visit here !
Dr. Mike Denton
BY Dr. Mike Denton | 21 Jan 2020
+ Watch Video
+ Recap Web Post
Dr. Alain Herique
BY Dr. Alain Herique | 28 Jan 2020
+ Watch Video
+ Recap Web Post

The STEAM Teaching at Arecibo (STAR) Academy welcomes 30 students from across the island each semester to provide them with a pre-college research experience. “It’s a head start for high schoolers because it will help them when entering college, and further, a career in research, engineering, or educating future scientists” said Anne Virkki, PI of the initiative.

The goal of the AO STAR Academy is to close the gap between demand and production within STEM careers in Puerto Rico. The fields that are covered in the program include: Planetary Sciences; Space Sciences; Computer Coding; Research Experience; and Leadership Skills, with hands-on activities.

The experience is a game-changer in the participants' life, by providing the necessary tools and experience for their future”, says Sujeily Santiago, Project Director in the Arecibo Observatory.

46 Years of the AO Message
The New Arecibo Message

New Arecibo Message - Global Challenge is a public engagement activity, aiming to engage K-16 students from all over the world in Space related topics, promoting global collaboration and enhancing critical thinking and self-awareness. The challenge seeks innovative ideas resulting from a global collaborative effort, led by the youth, to define an updated message that would represent the smartest and safest way to say hello to our possible galactic neighbors, promoting the peaceful use of Space, and exploring the cutting-edge technology and scientific knowledge currently available.