Arecibo Observatory: Unparalleled Science and Discovery



In the Spring of 2021, the University of Central Florida (UCF) offered a unique course designed to give students a deep, exclusive understanding of the science, engineering, and operations of the Arecibo Observatory, titled “The Arecibo Observatory: Unparalleled Science & Discovery”. The seminar-styled graduate course was offered through the NASA-funded Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science (CLASS), partnering with NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). 

Many of the course attendees, who were UCF undergraduate and graduate students, admitted that they did not know much about the facility prior to the course. In an anonymous survey conducted at the end of the course, students shared that their motivations for registering for the class ranged from “wanting to know more about what the telescope was capable of” to “what it is like to work as an observational astronomer.”

The course was designed to cater to such interests; each week a scientist, engineer, or a representative from the management team at the Arecibo Observatory spoke (virtually) with the students, sharing their own experience and expertise with the group. Then, the students would engage in their own research on a related topic and present their findings later that week to fuel a discussion between their classmates and the UCF faculty, which was guided by the AO representative and the course instructor Dr. Addriene Dove.

One student noted how interesting the radar lecture was. “I thought it was amazing that you could derive so much information about a target from a single radar echo.” 

Others cited how important the facility was overall: “Arecibo does amazing work across multiple disciplines and is irreplaceable.” That student added, “I really appreciated the opportunities Arecibo created for education, inclusion, and diversity in their community and in the scientific community as a whole.”

As for what the students take away from the semester’s lessons, Dr. Adrienne Dove, the instructor for the course, says, “I hope the students come away from the course with a better understanding of the amazing breadth and depth of science achievable by Arecibo, as well as a deeper understanding of what is required to build and operate a facility as long-lasting and scientifically productive as the Arecibo Observatory.” When asked about the future of the facility, one student replied, “I hope AO can build the most state-of-the-art telescope in the world in the near future, whatever that may look like. I also hope they can continue to do amazing science with the data they have and can continue to educate many more students.”

You can access the recorded lectures here: Arecibo Observatory: Unparalleled Science and Discovery (password = radio)

Article written by Dr. Tracy Becker - AO Collaborator / SwRI Research Scientist Contact:

Noemi Pinilla-Alonso, PhD
Associate in Planetary Science — Florida Space Institute

Deputy Principal Scientist — Arecibo Observatory

Dr. Adrienne (Addie) Dove
Assistant Professor
Department of Physics
University of Central Florida
Office: 407.476.4947

Keywords: observatory, arecibo, radio, telescope, education, class, seminar, ucf, Lunar, Asteroid, Surface, Science, dove ,nasa