Contrary to what most people believe, an observatory is more than just a telescope, or a group of telescopes, that people use to observe the stars. In fact, an observatory provides astronomers with the equipment needed to perform functions they wouldn’t be able to as individuals.

Central to modern observational astrophysics, an observatory provides the perfect space and opportunity for astronomers to make and evaluate discoveries. Where observatories are concerned, there’s no better observatory to carry this out than the Arecibo Observatory.

Located on the island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea, the Arecibo Observatory was built in the early 1960s and is, today, the largest single-dish telescope in the entire world. The brainchild of William E. Gordon, a professor at Cornell University, the telescope was primarily developed to study the scattering of radio waves of molecules and atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. However, it is now used for astronomical purposes.

Due to its large size, the dish at this observatory operates slightly differently than other radio telescopes because it’s fixed in the ground and doesn’t move. Instead, it can access the sky’s regions above it through a moveable detector 150 meters above the dish’s base.

The platform weighs 900 tons and is supported by eighteen cables and electric motors that can move it with millimeter precision. This way, the dish receives signals from approximately a quarter of the visible sky. Moreover, the Earth rotates every 24 hours, the Arecibo Observatory can access a massive portion of the sky through night and day.

This observatory has conducted a wide range of astronomical observations through the course of its life, such as discovering pulsars, measuring the rotation rates of planets, and searching for signs of extraterrestrial life.

Since it’s one of the most renowned observatories in the world, it’s natural that a few significant discoveries have been made here. Most recently, in fact, the observatory is accredited for locating the first planets outside the solar system and measuring the planet Mercury’s rotation rate.


The Arecibo Observatory was also featured in Hollywood movies and, this way is more recognizable to younger generations. In fact, the antenna was shown in the movie adaption of Contact where Jodie Foster used it to locate alien signals. Apart from this, the massive telescope was also featured in the final scene of the James Bond movie, GoldenEye.

An awe-inspiring location, the Arecibo Observatory is a stunning place for anyone who wants to explore the stars and find out what lies beyond. Its large structure makes it a popular attraction for people of all ages and nationalities and ensures that anyone will be able to enjoy it.

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