Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Arecibo Observatory - 3

When built in 1963, the telescope was (and still is) an engineering marvel, contributing to and propelling advances in electrical and mechanical engineering, antenna design, signal processing, and electronic instruments. Its operation lead to many discoveries in radioastronomy, planetary and atmospheric studies.

With the help of the Arecibo telescope scientists have made many important discoveries. On 7 April 1964, Gordon H. Pettengill's team determined that the rotation rate of Mercury is only 59 days (as opposed to the previously thought 88 days). In 1968, the radiotelescope provided the first solid evidence of neutron stars. Finally, in 1974 Hulse and Taylor discovered the first binary pulsar (PSR B1913+16), for which they were later awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, which is permanently on display in the Observatory's museum.

The radiotelescope is also collecting observational data for the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project. SETI is a distributed computing project using Internet-connected computers, searching for possible evidence of radio transmissions from extraterrestrial intelligence. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can join this project (http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/)

Arecibo Telescope has been used in the filming of two popular movies: as the villain's antenna in the James Bond movie GoldenEye and as itself in the film Contact. As a huge fan of James Bond , you can see that I had a dual interest in visiting this place. :)

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