The Arecibo Observatory is the home of a very important radio telescope. It is located in the Northwestern part of Puerto Rico. This radio telescope is the second largest in the world (the largest is in Russia) measuring 330 meters in diameter and covers 18 acres. Scientists from Cornell University developed and administered it for forty-five years. Since 2011, it is sponsored by National Science Foundation and administered by SRI International, The Universities Space Research, and the Universidad Metropolitana (a Puerto Rican private university).
The Arecibo Observatory has made incredible scientific achievements: Gordon H. Pettengill on April 7, 1964 determined that Mercury’s rotation period lasts 59 day, not 88 as previously thought; On August of 1989 the radio telescope captured a picture of an asteroid for the very first time in history; In 1990, the astronomer Aleksander Wolszczan discovered the pulsating star PSR B1257+12 that lead to the discovery of its two orbital planets which were the first extra solar planets found.
It has also been used in popular culture. For example, in the James Bond movie Golden Eye, in an episode of The X Files titled “Little Green Men”, the movie Contact, and the movie Species.
Besides the scientific research, the observatory has a recreational aspect for those who wish to visit. People can go from Wednesdays to Sundays and take an informational tour of the observatory and watch a video of it. Many schools take students for educational purposes, but families or individuals can also go and learn about astronomy.