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URGENT: Arecibo Observatory Advocacy Alert

posted Jun 18, 2021, 12:32 AM by Abel Mendez   [ updated Jun 18, 2021, 12:45 AM ]

Dear Arecibo Observatory supporter,

We are organizing an advocacy campaign to convince Congress to include funding for the design and construction of a new Arecibo telescope in the US Innovation and Competition Act (Bill S. 1260) that was passed by the Senate last week (on 6/8/21). The bill includes considerable investments in research and specifically calls out programs at the NSF and NASA. The bill includes topics that could be addressed by a new Arecibo telescope (or that were already being addressed at the AO before the collapse). These include: Space Situational Awareness, Planetary Defense, Search for Life and programs to address the STEM workforce and STEM education. You can take a look at the bill here: 
https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1260/text (select the Engrossed in Senate (6/8/21) version).

We are asking that you contact your representative and ask them to include funding for the design and construction of a new Arecibo telescope. You can find out who your representative in Congress is by going to: 
https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative  
and entering your zip code. 

You can either call or email your representative's office. We have been told that calling is more effective (even if it is leaving a message). Below we provide a draft letter that you can copy and edit as you wish (in the case you are writing a letter) and bullet points that you can use if you are leaving a phone message.  If you have the time, it would also be good if you can schedule a 15 to 30 min. meeting for this or next week with your representative's aide who deals with science and technology issues to talk more about this in a bit more detail and let them know the importance of the Arecibo Observatory (see the last sentence of the draft letter and the last bullet point).

Please let us know if you contact your representative by filling out this google form: https://forms.gle/JaDnqf7KqNM5At8U9

Best,
Arecibo Science Advocacy Partnership (ASAP) Advocacy Committee 

Possible draft letter

Dear Rep. X, 

I write to you today to ask that language be included in the US Innovation and Competition Act (Bill S. 1260) to fund the design and construction of a new Arecibo radio telescope, which will allow the US to maintain leadership in the areas of radio astronomy, and planetary and atmospheric sciences.    

The Arecibo Observatory, a National Science Foundation (NSF) facility located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, suffered a devastating loss when its main instrument, the 305-meter radar/radio telescope, collapsed in December of 2020. For nearly 60 years, the Arecibo Observatory made ground-breaking scientific contributions to the fields of astronomical, planetary, and atmospheric sciences. It was also at the heart of extensive public outreach and science education programs that inspired thousands of students in Puerto Rico and the U.S. to pursue careers in science and engineering.

Astronomical research at Arecibo has a rich history of enhancing our understanding of the universe. The first planets outside our solar system were detected at Arecibo, and observations of the first known double neutron star system led to the awarding of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics. The Observatory was also host to the world’s most powerful and sensitive planetary radar system, which was central to NASA's efforts to accomplish its Congressionally mandated mission to identify all potentially hazardous asteroids (i.e., Near-Earth Objects). And the Observatory had the unique ability to study the upper atmosphere at altitudes ranging from about 60 to 2500 km, making key contributions to our understanding of the interactions between the Sun's magnetic field and the Earth's atmosphere.

The Observatory is home to the Angel Ramos Foundation Science & Visitor Center, which welcomed nearly 100,000 visitors a year, and supported Science Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) education at all levels throughout Puerto Rico and beyond. The Visitor Center's programs, along with the Observatory's longstanding Research Experiences for Undergraduates summer program, have motivated many students from all over the U.S. and Puerto Rico to pursue degrees in a wide range of science and engineering fields.

Over the last few years, the NSF and NASA awarded the Observatory approximately $20 million dollars for new instruments, research and education programs. These investments indicate that Arecibo had all the potential to continue conducting cutting-edge science and impactful STEAM education for many years to come.     

There is no other radar/radio telescope in the U.S. like the one that existed at the Arecibo Observatory. Recently, the FAST telescope, a large radio (but not radar) telescope similar to the one that was at the Arecibo Observatory, started operations in China. It is therefore imperative that a new, more sensitive, Arecibo radar/radio telescope is built for the U.S. to maintain its competitiveness in the field. 

The version of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act that was passed by the Senate calls out specific actions that will be possible with a new Arecibo telescope (and many of them were already being done with the old telescope). These include: 
-Space Situational Awareness (Sections 2604 and 2605 in Bill S. 1260)
-Planetary Defense (Sec. 2640)
-Search for Life through search of technosignatures (Sec. 2633, paragraph 4) 
-Programs to address the STEM workforce and STEM education (Sections 2202, 2210, 2662 and 2663)

Funding the design and construction of a new Arecibo radar/radio telescope will not only address these topics that are highlighted in Bill S. 1260, but will also ensure that the U.S. maintains its leadership in the areas of astronomy, planetary and atmospheric sciences. We therefore ask that language be introduced to the United States Innovation and Competition Act that specifically indicates that the NSF should fund the design and construction of a new Arecibo telescope. 

I would like to request a 15 to 30-minute meeting to discuss the importance of the Arecibo Observatory and why it should be funded. 

Sincerely,

XXXX


A few key points you might want to use if you call and talk to someone or leave a voice mail:

On December 1st, 2020 the US lost its most important radar and radio telescope, the Arecibo 305-m telescope. 

This instrument was responsible for many important advances in the areas of astronomy, planetary and atmospheric science.

The Observatory was also host to the world’s most powerful and sensitive planetary radar system, which was central to NASA's efforts to accomplish its Congressionally mandated mission to identify all potentially hazardous asteroids (i.e., Near-Earth Objects).

There is no other radar/radio telescope in the U.S. like the one that existed at the Arecibo Observatory. Recently, the FAST telescope, a large radio (but not radar) telescope similar to the one that was at the Arecibo Observatory, started operations in China. It is therefore imperative that a new, more sensitive, Arecibo radar/radio telescope is built for the U.S. to maintain its competitiveness in the field. 

The version of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act that was passed by the Senate calls out specific actions that will be possible with a new Arecibo telescope, including: Space Situational Awareness, Planetary Defense, Search for Life and programs to address the STEM workforce and STEM education.

I ask that language be included in the US Innovation and Competition Act (Bill S. 1260) to fund the design and construction of a new Arecibo radio telescope that will allow the U.S. to maintain leadership in the areas of radio astronomy, and planetary and atmospheric sciences. 

I would like to request a 15 to 30-minute meeting to discuss the importance of the Arecibo Observatory and why it should be funded.