Have you watched the movie Contact? Perhaps the James Bond Golden Eye? then you’re atleast a bit familiar with the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico, by far the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. This large complex is operated in a cooperation between Cornell University, NSF and NASA aimed at radio, atmosphere and radar science.
Though it’s basically American and Puerto Rico is only an American common wealth Puerto Rico was chosen as the main site since it’s the American territory that’s closest to the Equator and has the right terrain to support the gigantic dish.
What’s to see?
Yep, a big dish.
There is a fascinating introduction movie playing in Spanish and English as well as several exhibitions in the nearby visitor’s center. I wouldn’t bother you with details, there’s very little of the whole thing that I truly understand. But it’s quite an adventure
Most of the visitors, I think it won’t surprise you, were interested in the attempts to detect extraterrestrial life, called the "Arecibo message" sent up into space in 1974. Other interesting uses are detecting enemy radar installations through signals bouncing back from the moon.
Though it’s not very easy to reach with endless narrow mountain roads, it’s worth the trip as – science aside – it’s a sight to behold. You can easily combine that with another top attraction in the area on a day trip – the Camoy Caves.