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Planetarium Planned for Arecibo Observatory

Home to the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, the Arecibo Observatory is one of Puerto Rico's top attractions, receiving around 100,000 visitors each year. Plans to build a state-of-the-art planetarium and hotel are likely to increase the number of visitors to this high-tech facility which has been featured in the movies GoldenEye and Contact. While boosting tourism, the new development will also be promoted for its educational value, with funding for the project coming from several public universities and government agencies. Metropolitan University president Federico Matheu was reported as saying that one of the objectives of the project is to create a doctoral program in astronomy and space science.

Puerto Rico's Metropolitan University revealed that the planetarium should be completed within the next two years, with the hotel being completed within five years. The university currently runs the observatory in conjunction with the California-based nonprofit research group called SRI International, as well as a the Universities Space Research Association, the latter being a nonprofit association founded by the National Academy of Sciences and based in Maryland. This nonprofit consortium has received a $42 million contract from the National Science Foundation to assist in the financing of studies as the Arecibo Observatory. It is anticipated that as many as 50,000 students per year could benefit from time at the observatory. The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency supporting research and education in the non-medical fields of engineering and science.

Located on the north coast of Puerto Rico, Arecibo Observatory was established in 1963 and has been instrumental in many noteworthy discoveries about our universe, including identifying the first planets beyond our solar system. The Arecibo telescope has also been used for military intelligence, and has made attempts to communicate with possible extraterrestrial life. It is also the source of data for the SETI@home project run by the University of California, Berkeley.

Visitors to the Arecibo Observatory will find it fascinating, with the information presented in a manner that will appeal to all age groups. It is an extraordinary experience to observe the achievements of dedicated researchers in opening up the wonders of the universe. No doubt the new planetarium will make a visit to Arecibo even more rewarding.


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