In DepthNATURAL DISASTERS

Giant radio telescope lends a hand in Puerto Rico relief

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Science  10 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6364, pp. 704-705
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6364.704

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Summary

More than a month on from Hurricane Maria, Arecibo Observatory, the gargantuan radio telescope built into a depression in Puerto Rico’s karst hills, is still waiting to resume normal operations. Despite have suffered little damage, the observatory, like the rest of the island, lacks enough fuel to run generators. Meanwhile, the telescope and its infrastructure have become the unlikely base for an ongoing relief effort for its roughly 110 staff and the communities around it. And in a painful irony, while the staff pull their own lives back together, they face the prospect that their professional careers in Puerto Rico may be about to end not because of a natural disaster, but because of shifting priorities. This week, the government advisers of the National Science Board will be discussing the observatory’s future.