Arecibo Observatory
Vol. 6 Summer 2020

Picture courtesy of our Telescope Operator Israel C. Cabrera.

A statement from the president of UCF on our commitment to being actively anti-racist.

Our Future Is Inclusion

Upcoming Events

Planetary Science & Astrobiology Decadal Survey

f13b0fbb-2787-43e5-88f4-34ef9c4feed5.png The following white papers highlight the importance of radar capabilities from facilities including the Arecibo Observatory. If you would like to co-sign one or more of these white papers, click on the author to contact them directly or on the title to see the White Paper draft. The following white papers highlight the importance of radar capabilities from facilities including the Arecibo Observatory. If you would like to co-sign one or more of these white papers, click on the author to contact them directly.

Click here for a list of all proposed white papers.

Remote Single Dish & Observer Training Workshops

Single Dish WorkshopThis year the Arecibo and Green Bank Observatories will conduct virtual Observer Training Workshops between October 13th and 16th. The Arecibo observer training workshop will be held on Oct 15th and 16th, 2020, with the Green Bank training taking place on Oct 13th and 14th. This is a great opportunity for graduate students and Astronomers to be trained to remotely use the Arecibo and Green Bank telescopes and process the data. Registrations will be open soon; please check the AO training web post and GBO training website. You are welcome to attend either or both training workshops, but you must register for each training workshop separately. Due to the continued health threat and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus COVID-19, there will be no annual in-person AO/GBO Single Dish Workshop in 2020. We plan to continue the Single Dish Workshop in 2021. Please check the AO website and GBO website. + Read More


Science Highlights

A New Approach for Understanding the Occurrence Rate of MSTIDs in the Caribbean Nighttime Ionosphere

Using the first acquired dataset from the AO Remote Optical Facility, AO scientist Dr. Pedrina Terra dos Santos led a publication that connects the occurrence rate of Medium Scale Traveling Ionospheric Disturbances (MTIDs) with season and geomagnetic activity.  

+ Read More


Breaking Assumptions on the Excitation Temperatures in Molecular Clouds

In a recent study, Erin Dailey (graduate student at University of Georgia in Athens), Dr. Allison Smith (AO postdoctoral researcher), and their colleagues found evidence contradicting traditional assumptions for the excitation temperatures of CH, which are used to determine column densities of molecular clouds.

+ Read More


AO radar measurements of Jupiter’s Moons

In a paper published in the Astronomical Journal,​ ​AO radar observations of the Galilean satellites obtained between 1999 - 2016 were used to accurately determine the orbits of Jupiter’s four largest moons.

+ Read More

Deflecting Asteroids for Planetary Defense

AO Scientist Dr. Flavianne Venditti led a paper titled Dynamics of tethered asteroid systems to support planetary defense​ in the European Physical Journal.

+ Read More

New AO Lidar Observations of Ca+ in the Mesosphere and Thermosphere​

Simultaneous lidar and Incoherent Scattering Radar measurements can only be done at Arecibo. AO scientist Dr. Shikha Raizada capitalized on this unique capability to trace calcium ions in the Earth’s atmosphere in a recent GRL publication .

+ Read More

Modifying the Earth’s Ionosphere from Arecibo

A unique, high-altitude plasma cavity was created over Arecibo during the June 2019 High Frequency Ionospheric Heating Campaign. The experiment and the Incoherent Scattering Radar measurements of the cavity were reported in JGR - Space Physics.

+ Read More


“Mask-wearing” Asteroid Captures the World’s Imagination​

When the Arecibo radar observations of the near-Earth asteroid 1998 OR2 revealed some physical structure on the object, Radar Group Lead Dr. Anne Virkki thought it looked as though the asteroid was wearing a mask as it passed by the Earth in April.​ T​he resulting asteroid/scientist selfie was shared by a number of news outlets, and the AO radar images even made it to the TV screen during The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and the Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

+ Read More

Postdoctoral Researchers
Jumpstarting Careers as an Arecibo Postdoctoral Researcher

The Arecibo Observatory has a long tradition of offering opportunities to graduate students and early career researchers. Being a postdoc at AO is a great opportunity to jumpstart your research career while having access to observe with a one of the most iconic and powerful radio and radar telescopes in the world. Since May of 2018, the University of Central Florida’s Preeminent Postdoctoral Program (P3) has supported six early career scientists at the Arecibo Observatory.

Dr. Kristen M. Jones
Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, VA USA

Dr. Kristen M. Jones studies the interplay of active galactic nuclei and their host galaxy environment. We reached out to Dr. Jones to learn how working at AO helped her in her career.
+ Read More

Dr. Allison Smith
Ph.D. from University of Georgia - Athens, GA, USA

Studies small molecular clouds near the disk-halo interface of the Milky Way Galaxy

Dr. Dylan Hickson
Ph.D. from York University, Toronto, Canada

Uses radar observations to study regolith properties and composition of near-Earth asteroids

Dr. Sravani Vaddi
Ph.D. from Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, USA

Studies Active Galactic Nuclei and involved in the commissioning of the upgraded Very Long Baseline Interferometer system at Arecibo.

Dr. Sean Marshall
(former postdoc)
Ph.D. from Cornell University, New York, USA

Combines radar and infrared observations of near-Earth asteroids to determine their size, shape, rotation, and thermal properties. Recently promoted to AO Scientist.

Dr. Nipuni Palliyaguru (former postdoc)
Ph.D. from West Virginia University, WV, USA

Currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Texas Tech University; Studies different classes of radio transients from pulsars and fast radio bursts to core collapse supernova and is interested in pulsar timing array experiments for gravitational wave detections.

Workshops, Training, and Educational Programs Continue
AO Adapts to the Times

Undeterred by the challenges imposed by the global pandemic, the Arecibo Observatory has successfully implemented workshops and training programs throughout the year. Some of them have happened virtually and some of them have been delayed and will happen in the next months. + Read More

Virtual Sessions


NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates
One-week professional development course this summer, students go on-site next summer


AO/GBT Virtual Observer Training Workshops
One week virtual observing and data analysis training workshops


Incoherent Scatter Radar Summer School
“Inverted” (pre-recorded) summer classes with real-time virtual data analysis training


The Strategic Vision for Incoherent Scatter Radar (ISR) Workshop
Mini-workshop held with virtual discussions


Star Academy
Star Academy
Virtual classes and mentorship for project development

Arecibo Observing Time in Semester 2020b

The Arecibo Observatory Semester 2020b starts on July 1, 2020. The chart shows the breakdown into science themes for the proposals that were awarded telescope time. Because of the needed 430 MHz transmitter repairs, no SAS radar campaigns have been scheduled.

We continue to use the rest of the radio and optical instrumentation at AO and at the Culebra Remote Optical Facility (ROF) for atmospheric studies.

Management Update

Arecibo Observatory Management Update Regarding COVID-19 Pandemic  

The Arecibo Observatory is slowly returning to normal operations. Telescope observations have continued, even through the challenges presented by the global pandemic. We are now ramping up the required maintenance that had been slowed due to limited access to the observatory. Most of the staff are working remotely when possible. For staff who need to be on-site, we are taking extraordinary safety measures. These include measuring temperatures at the entrance, enforcing the use of face masks, and minimizing group activities whenever possible. Currently our staff are healthy and safe, which is our top priority.

Primary Reflector Callibration  

We have begun inspections of the panel structure of the AO primary reflector in order to reverse the warping of the dish caused by Hurricane Maria. As early as this summer we anticipate initiating the adjustments to the dish, which will significantly improve the sensitivity of the telescope. We have purchased the laser-ranging equipment that will facilitate our future maintenance of the primary reflector’s nominal shape, allowing in-house calibration of the dish, and counteracting any future distortions to solidify the Arecibo Observatory’s continued reputation as one of the most sensitive radio telescopes in the world.

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 Arecibo management is actively working to finalize the contract to restore the Incoherent Scattering Radar capabilities at the observatory.

AO S-band Update  
The observatory has acquired and installed both Klystrons to power our radar system. However, we are currently operating one klystron at a time while we await additional generators to be able to power them both simultaneously. We ordered the new generators last year; however, we expect some continued delay since the purchased generators were supposed to be manufactured in Wuhan, China.

Our New Staff Members

We are excited to welcome Abniel Machín, Macime Devogele, Juan Oliver and Sevaraj Dharmalingam to the AO team!
Dr. Abniel Machin
Dr. Abniel Machín

As executive director of the Science and Visitor Center, Dr. Machín is in charge of the operation of the Center as well the education and public outreach (EPO) components of the Arecibo Observatory. His mission is to promote the sciences that are studied and practiced at the Arecibo Observatory while creating educational programs and collaborations that increase the number of students choosing STEM careers.

Dr. Abniel Machin
Dr. Maxime Devogele

Maxime Devogele joins the Planetary Science group at AO. His research will focus on combining radar and optical observations of near-Earth objects to better understand their surface properties. Maxime joins us from the Lowell Observatory, where he worked as a postdoctoral researcher on the MANOS project, obtaining photometry and spectroscopy of newly-discovered near-Earth asteroids. He earned his PhD in Science from the University of Liege in Belgium and Planetary Science from the University Cote d’Azur in France.

Dr. Abniel Machin
Dr. Selvaraj Dharmalingam

Dr. Dharmalingam joins the Space and Atmospheric Science group at AO. He will conduct research on ionospheric plasma physics as well as space weather using the Incoherent scatter radar (ISR) technique. He will also participate in ionospheric radar observations, high frequency heating campaigns, data processing, and archiving. Dr. Dharmalingam was awarded his PhD by SRM University at Kattankulathur, India, doing work that was carried out in the National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL) using the Indian MST radar at Gadanki.

Dr. Abniel Machin
Juan Oliver

Mr. Juan Oliver is the Human Resources Business Partner for the Arecibo Observatory. Some of his responsibilities include talent management, benefits, and employee relations. He is also responsible for the new hire's onboarding process, engagement activities, and the training and development of our team. Welcome, Juan!