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Guest Editorial

Support The Next Generation Arecibo Telescope
by H. Paul Shuch

Since the collapse of the famed Arecibo Radio Telescope on 1 December 2020, much work has been going on behind the scenes to envision a future for this landmark facility. This month, an alliance of more than 50 prominent radio astronomers has released a 96 page White Paper to be presented to the National Science Foundation, proposing the funding and construction of what they are calling the Next Generation Arecibo Telescope (NGAT). They are now appealing to the general public to sign on in support of that proposal. Here is an excerpt from their appeal:

The Arecibo Observatory has been a beacon to the world producing revolutionary science and innovation for more than 50 years.

The observatory’s unique capabilities have helped us better understand our planet's atmosphere, warned us and educated us about hazardous asteroids, and fed our spirit of exploration by offering a look at new regions of the Cosmos. Arecibo has inspired millions of people, and helped create an entire generation of scientists. We feel it is our duty to continue this great legacy, by developing a new instrument that can further expand human knowledge for decades to come.

“The Future of the Arecibo Observatory: The Next Generation Arecibo Telescope” outlines how investing in a pioneering concept for a new telescope and cutting-edge instrumentation at the Arecibo Observatory will continue to propel discovery and humankind’s understanding in the fields of Planetary Science, Space and Atmospheric Sciences, and Astronomy. Better understanding in each of these areas can potentially impact everything from our planet’s safety and security, the changes in the climate, the technology we rely on for communication and transportation here on Earth and the safety of spacecraft on future missions. Moreover, this facility will serve as a source of inspiration for the students in Puerto Rico, the U.S. mainland, and around the globe to pursue STEM studies.

The ambitious science key areas prioritized in this white paper lay the groundwork for a new concept for a multidisciplinary telescope - the Next Generation Arecibo Telescope (NGAT) - an innovative combination of a compact, phased array of dishes on a steerable plate-like structure with high power radar capabilities. The combined dish would result in a larger collecting area than the legacy 305-m Arecibo telescope, which will provide even more sensitivity and a larger field-of-view, with the ability to point at the center of the galaxy... The NGAT concept presented here is not intended to be the final design, but it lays the groundwork for the initial engineering and optical studies.

The NGAT will not start from scratch. It will take advantage of the existing infrastructure, decades of experience, and the support of the local people and government...

This paper represents a starting point, that demonstrates that the future is real and full of much more potential than many may understand.

I have already indicated my personal support for this ambitious undertaking, and encourage all SETI League members and SETI enthusiasts to read the entire proposal here, and then consider supporting this landmark effort.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in editorials are those of the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of The SETI League, Inc., its Trustees, officers, Advisory Board, members, donors, or commercial sponsors.

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