15:25 PM

USRA Statement on NSF Decision Regarding Arecibo Observatory


Columbia, MD—February 23, 2018. The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that the University of Central Florida (UCF) will start formal transition activities to take on the operations and management of NSF's Arecibo Observatory (AO) in Puerto Rico.

In partnership with SRI International and Universidad Metropolitana, USRA has managed the radio astronomy and planetary science programs at the observatory since 2011. We have many notable accomplishments, during that time, including:

  • Doubling the number of radio astronomy peer-reviewed publications per year that involve/cite AO;
  • Doubling the number of Near-Earth Objects detected per year at AO; and
  • Establishing the AO Space Academy, which helped to launch multiple careers in Space Science and Astronomy among the local high school population.”

In addition, USRA’s efforts helped to enable significant scientific discoveries at the observatory, such as fast radio bursts; an independent measurement of the distance to the Pleiades star cluster (a cornerstone for astronomical distance derivations); and detailed characterizations of near-Earth asteroids that could potentially harm our planet.

Dr. Isaacson added, “We thank Dr. Joan Schmelz, USRA’s director at Arecibo, and Deputy Observatory Director and the entire Arecibo team for these and other accomplishments, and especially for their professionalism and tireless devotion to Arecibo Observatory, its mission, and the scientific communities it supports.”

As a member of the current management team, USRA will support NSF and UCF during the transition to ensure the continuity of observatory operations.


About USRA

Formed in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, Universities Space Research Association is an independent non-profit organization that offers an avenue for government and industry to engage the expertise of the academic community with USRA’s technical leadership, innovative R&D, operational excellence, management of premier facilities, and education programs to advance space- and aeronautics-related sciences and exploration. USRA works across disciplines including biomedicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations.