Arecibo Observatory

The world's largest single-aperture telescope

Arecibo Observatory radio telescope

This giant dish nestled in the mountain range is the world’s largest single-aperture telescope.  It does super-cool things like collect data for the [email protected] project and functions for use in radio astronomy, atmospheric science, and radar astronomy.

It’s remoteness in the RF-free mountains of the Caribbean makes it perfect for use in exploring space, but a pain in the ass to actually get to.  It’s quite a drive from San Juan to Arecibo, 90 minutes if you count the random slowdowns from chickens and goats in the road, not to mention crappy GPS coverage and poorly marked roads.  You’re literally going into the mountainous jungles of Puerto Rico to get to the Arecibo Observatory.

You’ll know you’re getting close as you begin to see signs requiring all visitors to turn off cell radios, and two-way radios.  From this point, the rest of the journey had pretty clearly marked road signs.

Once you arrive at the visitor center, you can be guaranteed of no lines and/or waiting due to the fact you just drove to (what it seems like) a third-world country.

The visitor center is very average with a lot of cool information about the site, it’s uses and overpriced gift shop trinkets.  What made this memorable to me was the experience to actually see a 1000′ diameter radio telescope that humans created to explore the further reaches of space.

The Arecibo Observatory site has been featured in movies such as Contact, X-Files and GoldenEye 007.  If you’re a science nerd, and in Puerto Rico – it’s worth a visit.