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Future Funding for the Arecibo Radio Observatory
by Nickolaus Leggett, N3NL

Editor's Note: Mr. Leggett has submitted this letter to the National Science Foundation. It is reproduced here by his kind permission.

I have read in Sky and Telescope Magazine (February 2007) and then in your own online report that the National Science Foundation is recommending that funding for the Arecibo Radio Observatory be dropped.

This would be a giant loss for American science and technology because the huge collection area of the Arecibo dish allows it to accomplish the following missions:

  1. High-resolution and multi-spectral radar astronomy of the planets and non-planet objects within the solar system.
  2. Detailed SETI surveys (such a listening survey is being conducted at the Observatory now on a "piggyback" basis along with other observations).
  3. Communications experiments with Moon-bounce communications activity including two-way contacts with amateur radio operators and the monitoring of emergency beacon frequencies via a Earth-Moon-Earth path. (The latter monitoring would allow detection of emergencies at sea over the hoizon.)
  4. Passive monitoring and radar examination of high-orbit and deeper-space payloads by the United States Air Force, National Security Agency, and/or Central Intelligence Agency.
  5. Graduate (and undergraduate) research projects in radio astronomy, atmospheric sciences, and communications.
  6. Active experimentation with the microwave transmission of useful power from the Earth to space payloads. Later, useful reception of microwave power from a space installation by means of a rectifying antenna (rectenna) mounted at the telescope's prime focus.
  7. Active transmission of SETI communications attempts under international control and direction. (Transmission of signal packets to likely catagories of stars.)
A combined set of missions such as this can be conducted by appropriate scheduling of the telescope's time. In some cases, compatible missions can be conducted simultaneously.

The NSF should work to make sure that this excellent instrument remains in active service.

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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