Look Beyond Our World at the Arecibo Observatory
The Arecibo Observatory is the home of one of the world’s largest radio telescope, which is used to study the ionosphere and nearby planets as they pass overhead. Since it’s opening in 1963, this radio telescope has been in continuous operation and has made many significant scientific discoveries. And during your trip to Puerto Rico, you can view this huge scientific instrument up close and personal.
This is not a must see trip for everyone. This is not a beautiful garden, nor amusing tour. This is a learning experience. And, unless you are pretty interested in natural science, you will find this place boring. But if you are interested in space or science, then you’ll probably have a great time here.
Once you arrive at the observatory, you’ll park in the parking lot , which is located below the exhibits and telescope. Be forewarned that you will have to walk up a fairly steep hill to get to the Observatory itself. The walkway is a combination of steps and an inclined side walk. Lots of people complain about the walk, but it wasn’t really that bad. There’s a small stand that sells Pina Coladas and sodas about half way up. If you have elderly or handicapped people in your party, tell the attendant at the bottom of the steps and they’ll call the observatory’s minivan to give those people a (free) ride up to the entrance.
Once at the top, get your tickets and go in to start learning.
The place has a ton of hands-on exhibits explaining and demonstrating how and why things happen in our galaxy. They have the exhibits broken into sections – some about the earth and our solar system, the stars and galaxies, and others on tools and technology used in studying these natural sciences. They even have some meteors on display. A real science geek could spend hours learning here. The information is geared to children about 10 (maybe with a little help from an adult) and up. The information may be too much for younger kids, but they will enjoy pressing the buttons and watching what happens.
Most of the exhibits require reading the how and why, then pressing a button the see what you just learned about in action. I am not a real science geek, but enjoyed some of the exhibits very much. I even bought a replica night sky disc that shows what star constellations are in the sky on any given night.
They show a movie (about 20 minutes) that explains "a day at the telescope". It was a bit cheesy, but it did amaze me, in that it showed how important and busy this telescope actually is. Scientists from all over the world have to schedule appointments all day and night to come and use this telescope. They are finding far away galaxies and learning about the sun and stars and all sorts of neat science stuff. This was a shocker to me as I had heard a rumor that all they did at the telescope was try to find flying saucers!
After the movie, you exit the building to where you can see the huge radio telescope. It is an impressive sight.
Parts of two Hollywood movies have been filmed here, Contact (with Jodie Foster) and 007- Golden Eye. So before you visit, check out the movies! Kind of neat.
Admission is $10 for adults, and $6 for children and seniors.
Open most of the year Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00am until 4:00pm. During June and July and from December 15 through January 15 they’re open 7 days/week from 9:00am until 4:00pm. Closed Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and Three Kings Day.
Allow 1 hour for your visit. There are clean bathrooms, a gift shop, and a small snack area.
For more information, call 787-878-2612.
Visit the Observatory’s website www.naic.edu and click on the “Angel Ramos Foundation Visitor Center” tab.
From the San Juan area, take Route 22 west to Arecibo – exit 77b. Then Route 129 south. There are signs to guide you once you get off of Route 22. The Observatory is located at the end of Road 625.
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