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NAIC: The National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center

Link to NAIC Web site

I. General project/facility description

  1. Overview of the facility/project
    The NAIC's major facility is the Arecibo Observatory, located in northwestern Puerto Rico. The principal instrument for astronomical research is the 305-m diameter Arecibo telescope. The Observatory also offers a complete suite of optical instrumentation (LIDARs, lasers and Fabry-Perot spectrometers) for atmospheric research.

  2. Managing institution and organization
    NAIC is operated as a national facility by Cornell University under a cooperative agreement with the NSF.

  3. Funding source(s)
    Approximately 85% of NSF funding for NAIC comes from the Astronomy Division (AST); the remaining 15% comes from the Upper Atmosphere Division of the NSF Geosciences Directorate (GEO).

    The capital cost of the Angel Ramos Visitor and Education Facility at Arecibo was paid entirely from private sources through donations to Cornell University most notable from the Angel Ramos Foundation. No NSF funding was used for construction of the Visitor Center. The operating cost of the Visitor Center, approximately $1M annually, is raised entirely from ticket sales and private donations. No NSF funds are expended to operate the Arecibo Observatory Visitor Center.

  4. Construction history and cost
    The Arecibo telescope was constructed from 1960-1963, funded by the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency with project administration provided by the U.S. Air Force.

    In 1973-4, the primary reflector was replaced, allowing operation to a frequency of 3 GHz; A high powered 2.4 GHz transmitter was installed for planetary radar research (funded by NASA). During the 1990's, a second upgrade allowed greater sensitivity and bandwidth at lower frequencies (notably the 1.4-1.6 GHz L-band) and extended the frequency range to 10 GHz. The $25M project began in 1992 funded by the NSF, NASA and Cornell. In addition to the installation of a Gregorian secondary and tertiary reflector system in a radome, the system was also outfitted with receiving systems up to 10 GHz, a 50-foot high ground screen to suppress ground spillover, and a dual-beam radar capability for atmospheric incoherent scatter studies.

    In 2004, the 7-beam Arecibo L-band Feed Array (ALFA) was installed and commissioned, revolutionizing Arecibo's wide-area mapping capability over the 1.2-1.5 GHz range.

    Estimated replacement cost: $220M.

  5. Operational history and costs)
    Originally, the facility was operated as the Arecibo Ionospheric Observatory. In 1971, responsibility for the Observatory was transferred to NSF and Cornell created the NAIC to serve the broad, national community of researchers and to recognize its importance to the astronomical community.

    In 2004 the budget for operation of the Arecibo telescope was $12.3M. This is made up of $10.6M from AST and $1.7M ATM.

II. Technical details

  1. Specifics of telescope/instrument
    305 meter diameter reflector, equipped with Gregorian optical system. Operates over frequency range from 327 MHz to 10 GHz
    See: General technical details website

  2. New capabilities anticipated/planned in next 5-10 years
    Technical capabilities at the NAIC, and plans for new capabilities, are developed in concert with the NAIC user community. Not only does the academic community of users help the NAIC generate ideas for new capabilities, in most cases they also provide the people to do the work to implement those capabilities (under contract with NAIC). NAIC strives to foster multi-institutional collaborations that are needed to promote many research endeavors. The NAIC plan for the future is dependent on partnerships formed, or being formed, to execute that plan. The key elements planned over the next 5-10 years are the following:

III. User profile

  1. % of "open skies" time
    100% of the time is allocated on the basis of peer-review scientific merit subject to staff technical review.

  2. Institutional affiliations of users
    More than 200 scientists from nearly 100 institutions were users of the Arecibo telescope in 2003. Most of these institutions are U. S. universities, but government laboratories, other observatories and foreign institutions are all represented as well. These numbers have grown steadily since the completion of the Gregorian upgrade in 1997: the number of users increasing by 24% and the number of institutions represented by 50% over the 5 years from 1999-2004.

  3. Student access, involvement, usage.

IV. Science Overview

  1. Current forefront scientific programs

  2. Major discoveries (through 1999)

  3. Science highlights of last 5 years

  4. Main future science questions to be addressed

  5. Synergies with other major forefront facilities

  6. Unique contributions

V. Education/Outreach activities

  1. Visitor facility:
    The focus of the NAIC public education and outreach activities is the Angel Ramos Foundation Visitor Center located on the site of the Arecibo Observatory. The Visitor Center, and the companion, Learning Center provide educational programs for public visitors, visiting school groups, conferences and special events, teacher workshops and topical workshops.

  2. Student programs (description, eligibility, number of students, activities, funding sources)
    NAIC supports education of the next generation of astronomers at all levels.

VI. Documentation/website URLs

  1. URL of facility website
  2. URL of EPO website
  3. URL(s) of any brief overviews of project/facility
  4. URL(s) of miscellaneous documentation (e.g. proposals, project books, science cases, etc)

This page created and maintained for the RMSPG by Martha Haynes.  Reviewed by Robert L. Brown. Last modified: Thu Feb 17 15:04:53 EST 2005