On November 1, 1963, the Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, officially opened to scientists from the United States and around the world. The observatory includes what was at the time the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world. (In 2016, China built an even larger radio telescope.)Radio telescopes gather data from radio waves, which have the longest wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum. The Arecibo radio telescope uses a large, dish-shaped antenna to direct radio waves from a specific region in the sky.The radio facilities at the Arecibo Observatory serve astronomers, planetary scientists, and atmospheric scientists. Data from the observatory helped astronomers prove the existence of neutron stars—the densest stars in the known universe. Recently, planetary science researchers analyzed data from Arecibo to detect the possible presence of ice on the planet Mercury. Atmospheric science researchers at the observatory study the properties of Earth’s airglow—the faint light emitted by our planet’s atmosphere.Several geographic factors made Arecibo the perfect spot for the massive dish, which measures 305 meters (1,000 feet) in diameter. First, Arecibo is a rural area far from Puerto Rico’s big cities. (Radio telescopes are ideally located in isolated areas, where few radio waves compete with the signals studied by scientists.) Second, Arecibo has a karst landscape, which allowed engineers to build the dish directly into a deep natural sinkhole. This allows the telescope even less radio “interference” from the surrounding area. Third, Puerto Rico is relatively close to the Equator, where scientists could best study planets that pass overhead.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry airglow Noun
faint light emitted by the upper atmosphere of Earth or another planet.
to study in detail.
structure through which electromagnetic signals are received.
person who studies space and the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere.
layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.
Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere atmospheric science Noun
study of the atmosphere's physical characteristics, motions, and processes, and the way in which these factors affect the rest of our environment.
to work against someone or something else for an award or acknowledgment.
data Plural Noun
(singular: datum) information collected during a scientific study.
having parts or molecules that are packed closely together.
width of a circle.
electromagnetic spectrum Noun
continous band of all kinds of radiation (heat and light).
to give off or send out.
person who plans the building of things, such as structures (construction engineer) or substances (chemical engineer).
imaginary line around the Earth, another planet, or star running east-west, 0 degrees latitude.
Encyclopedic Entry: equator factor Noun
element contributing to an event or outcome.
having to do with places and the relationships between people and their environments.
water in its solid form.
Encyclopedic Entry: ice ideal Adjective
to meddle or prevent a process from reaching completion.
to set one thing or organism apart from others.
landscape made of limestone.
Encyclopedic Entry: karst landscape Noun
the geographic features of a region.
Encyclopedic Entry: landscape locate Verb
to find or identify a place.
very large or heavy.
neutron star Noun
very dense stellar remnant formed by the collapse of a massive star in a supernova.
place or building equipped and used for making observations of astronomical, meteorological, or other natural phenomena, usually equipped with powerful telescopes.
large, spherical celestial body that regularly rotates around a star.
Encyclopedic Entry: planet planetary science Noun
study of planets and planetary systems, particularly our own solar system.
radio wave Noun
electromagnetic wave with a wavelength between 1 millimeter and 30,000 meters, or a frequency between 10 kilohertz and 300,000 megahertz.
any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.
Encyclopedic Entry: region rural area Noun
regions with low population density and large amounts of undeveloped land. Also called "the country."
Encyclopedic Entry: rural area signal Verb
to communicate using signs.
hole formed in a rock or other solid material by the weight or movement of water.
Encyclopedic Entry: sinkhole specific Adjective
exact or precise.
scientific instrument that uses mirrors to view distant objects.
all known matter, energy, and space.
the distance between the crests of two waves.