Central Florida Roundup
A Brilliant Move: UCF leads a team at Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory
A consortium led by the University of Central Florida won a five-year, $20.15-million contract to take over management of the iconic Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a mammoth radio telescope built into a limestone sinkhole that has been used for important astronomical discoveries — and as a setting for the James Bond movie GoldenEye.
The deal, negotiated with the National Science Foundation, kicked in April 1. The UCF-led team also includes the Universidad Metropolitana in San Juan and Oviedo-based Yang Enterprises, an architectural, engineering and maintenance firm founded by a UCF alum and adjunct professor. The 54-year-old observatory has been used by scientists around the world. Two physicists won a Nobel Prize after using the telescope to test Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves and providing the first evidence for the existence of such waves.
“UCF’s oversight of this crucial resource further solidifies our university as a leader in space-related research,” says UCF President John Hitt. “The observatory will provide a valuable new dimension to space science at UCF while creating more academic opportunities for students and faculty at UCF, in Puerto Rico and beyond. This agreement, made possible through easpartnerships, also ensures that the observatory will continue to make significant contributions to space science and mankind.”
Hurricane Maria damaged the observatory when it roared ashore in Puerto Rico in September, but electricity was restored in December, and Arecibo is operational again. The UCF consortium says it will pay for observatory operations by offering short-term partnerships for telescope use, fundraising, bringing in more management partners and organizing tourism programs around the facility.