Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

 The conference offered a trip to see the Radio Telescope in Arecibo, Puerto, Rico.  I signed up for it but due to the number of people who wanted to go, they held a lottery for the VIP tour.  I didn't make it but I went to check out the visitors center.

It was awe some.  Everyone going, boarded a bus at 8:00 Am in front of the hotel.  We had a full load.  It took about 90 minutes to drive out to the front gate where everyone checked in with the guards.  No one is allowed in without signing in.

Once permission had been obtained the bus drove through the gates and up the hill to the parking lot associated with the visitors center.  All cell phones had to be put on airplane mode or turned off because the cell phone signal could interfere with all the equipment.

We had to hike up the hill to the visitors center.  They do have a van they use to take people who cannot make the walk up the hill.  It was a beautiful day for a walk.
There are four towers like the one in the photo place around the area. Each tower is outfitted with thick steel cables to hold up the detection unit above the receiver located in the ground.

The small building to the right, you can barely see it is the visitors center while the white corner to the left is part of the control center.  The people who went on the VIP tour, got to go down to see the receiver in greater detail but they did not see the control center.

We continued our walk up to the visitors center along with lots of children who were on school tours.  From what the tour guide stated, school children are always visiting the radio telescope. In fact, it seems to be one of those places, locals are always visiting.
 Once we got to the visitors center, we had to wait a while while our leader found someone. She came back with our guide and wrist bands proving we'd paid.  We had to wait a while but by 10:30 we were heading in and at the same time, the first group of five went for their special tour.

The visitors center has all sorts of displays from showing how craters are created to a history of the building of the radio telescope to all sorts of information on astronomy.  It is well organized and filled with hands on activities for children of all ages.
 Along one wall, there are lots of meteorites discovered all over the world and information on each one.  You can see in the photo to the left, one of the larger chunks found.

At the beginning of our visit, one of the young men gave a wonderful informational talk on these samples, composition, and other interesting information.  I was off trying to get a picture of the universe showing the location of the earth. 

 This is the actual detection unit which is hung over the receiver.  If you look carefully you see something looking like a huge camera eye to the right while there is a pointed wire like object to the left.

Just standing there, I felt so small looking at the whole radio telescope.  You would have seen this in the movie Contact with Jodie Foster.  Part of the film was filmed here while other parts were filmed in at the radio telescope in New Mexico.

What you see to the left is the actual dish.  It has a diameter of 1000 feet and up until a couple years ago, it was the larges single unit radio telescope in the world. 

The dish is made out of a screen like material put together to form a semisphere set into a sink hole in the ground.  This area was chosen because they had to do very little work to clear the area.  They began building this around 1960 and finished it in 1963.

At the time, they weren't sure how to build it but they did.  The reason for using a screen like material is that it helps focus the signal better than a solid material. 

They cannot walk directly on the dish.  They must use one of these huge metal thongs rather than using their own shoes because these are designed to spread the wearers weight so the dish is not damaged. 

Because the dish is hanging above the bottom of the sink hole, they have to get in and cut the plants down so they don't grow through the holes and take it over.

On the way up, we passed several abandoned houses, disappearing under an umbrella of local flora.  In a few places, the only reason I knew there was a building hidden there, was the gray wall peeking through all the leaves.

The time went all too fast because by 1:15, we were back on the road, heading for the hotel.  This is an experience I will remember all my life.  I got back to the hotel in time for the first event of the conference.  If you are ever in San Juan, I hope you get the chance to visit Arecibo because it is worth it.

Let me know what you think.

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