Space & Atmospheric Sciences

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Atmospheric Science is the investigation of the earth's gaseous envelope. Experiments performed at Arecibo measure upper atmosphere composition, temperature and densities in order to understand the controlling physical processes. The Arecibo Radio Telescope can measure the growth and decay of disturbances in the changing layers of charged particles which populate the region known as the ionosphere ( altitudes above 30 miles ). The "big dish" is also used to study plasma physics processes in the electrically charged regions of the earth's atmosphere. where radio waves are influenced most.

Photo of the ALF Lidar

Arecibo Lidar Facility (ALF)

The work at the Arecibo Lidar Facility is mainly focused on the so-called mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT) region at around 85 – 115 km of altitude. The work also includes the stratosphere down to 30 km and ion observations as high as 160 km altitude. The MLT region is experimentally challenging to access as it is too high for aircrafts or atmospheric balloons and too low for satellites because of the atmospheric friction.

Remote Optical Facility (ROF)

The Arecibo Observatory Remote Optical Facility (ROF) is located in Culebra, a small island in the east of Puerto Rico’s archipelago (approximately 150 km from Arecibo Observatory). Culebra is a federal nature reserve and was chosen due to its geographical and climatological characteristics, as well as the low light contamination, making it a strategic site for optical experiments. The container with the domes on top in the left bottom pane hosts the optical and radio instrumentation and a control room, while the other is lodging for scientists and technicians.

Projects Under Development

Culebra Aerosol Research Lidar

CARLA’s research instrument, a high spectral resolution aerosol lidar, will be developed at the main site of the Arecibo Observatory (AO) and, thereafter, installed at the Remote Optica Facility of the AO in Culebra island. CARLA will deliver information about aerosol properties over time and altitude.

Puerto Rican Initiate for Studies using Meteor Radarr (PRISMA)

PRISMA will deploy the first Caribbean all-sky VHF Meteor Radar in the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico. PRISMA’s goals involve determining the meteor’s climatology in Puerto Rico vicinities, and meteor flux properties, aiding research in planetary, meteor, and atmospheric sciences. PRISMA will also evaluate the potential of using meteor radar to study space debris, providing new tools to support the space environment’s protection.

Recent Posts

News, Web Articles, Press Releases, Media


The 11th International Workshop on Long-Term Changes and Trends in the Atmosphere (TRENDS 2022) was held at the Space and Earth Observation Centre, Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), Helsinki, Finland from May 30th - June 3rd. + Read More


In a very important milestone for the Puerto Rican Initiative for Studies Using Meteor Radar (PRISMA) project, the radar system arrived at the Arecibo Observatory (AO) in February of 2022.
The radar was previously operating at the Andes Lidar Observatory (ALO) in Chile. It was donated to the University of Central Florida / Arecibo Observatory by the University of Illinois. + Read More


The 2021 joint meeting of the New York State Section of the American Physical Society and the Astronomical Society of New York was a topical symposium titled Science and Discoveries at the Arecibo Observatory.

The symposium featured five presentations showcasing the Arecibo Observatorys history, its future, and the major discoveries it enabled within the three focus areas of Arecibo science: Astronomy, Planetary Science, and Space & Atmospheric Science.


Scientists at the Arecibo Observatory (AO) have teamed up with UCF professors in the College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL) to establish a world-class virtual facility to implement innovative atmospheric-sensing technology in Puerto Rico. + Read More

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