[meteorite-list] Cuts Threaten World's Largest Telescope in Arecibo

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2007 18:55:33 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <200706020155.SAA04109_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Cuts Threaten World's Largest Telescope
Associated Press
June 1, 2007

ARECIBO, Puerto Rico - Engineers will travel to this Puerto Rican
coastal town in coming weeks to study whether to shut down the world's
largest radio telescope, which was featured in the movie "Contact" but
now faces steep budget cuts, observatory officials said Thursday.

Opened in 1963, the Arecibo telescope, a 1,000-foot-wide dish set in a
sinkhole amid forested hills, bounces radio waves off asteroids and
charts their location, speed and course. It has recorded a number of
scientific discoveries, including the first planets beyond the solar
system and lakes of hydrocarbons on Saturn's moon Titan.

But fears that it could face extinction began late last year, when a
panel commissioned by the National Science Foundation, a U.S. federal
agency, called for deep budget cuts and said officials should consider
eliminating it entirely at the end of the decade.

Observatory officials said Thursday the impending study does not mean
the complex will close entirely - at least not immediately.

"That's not our desire. But we are looking at this for planning
purposes," said Richard Barvainis, program manager of the National
Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, which includes the Arecibo observatory.

The Arecibo telescope appeared in "Contact," a 1997 Jodie Foster movie
based on the Carl Sagan book about the search for extraterrestrial life.
It also gained fame in the 1995 James Bond movie "Goldeneye," in which
the telescope's platform, suspended like a giant steel spider 450 feet
above the dish, figured in a climactic fight scene.

The telescope's budget will plummet from $10.5 million this year to $4
million by 2010, Barvainis said, with the savings going to construct a
telescope 20 times more powerful, perhaps in Australia or South Africa.

Owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by Cornell
University, the Arecibo facility is receiving a makeover to persuade
federal officials to keep it open, including a $3.5 million paint job to
keep its steel structure from corroding in the humid Caribbean air.

Officials said that regardless of what happens with the possible budget
cuts, the telescope's visitor center, which draws about 120,000 people a
year, would remain open.
Received on Fri 01 Jun 2007 09:55:33 PM PDT

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