MIT Radio Society Makes Contact with Arecibo Observatory

Phil, Nathaniel, and Daniel

Although not in the hardest-hit earthquake zone, Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory nonetheless has been affected by the recent spate of earthquakes and aftershocks. The landmark Arecibo radio telescope and ionospheric radar facility was a victim of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Members of the MIT Radio Society stepped up to help in support and recovery efforts for the Arecibo Observatory on January 14th. Daniel Sheen, KC1EPN, Station Manager for the MIT Radio Society, assisted Phil Erickson, W1PJE, and Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, in using the MIT Station for a scheduled radio contact with Arecibo’s lead telescope operator and spectrum manager, Angel Vazquez, WP3R.

The QSO was made easy by the station’s kW class amplifier driven by a Ten-Tec Orion II along with a (partially damaged) HF multielement beam pointed south on the top of Walker Memorial. Even better was surprising Angel with an additional greeting from Nathaniel, W2NAF, who came over with Phil from the AMS meeting and is the lead for the HamSCI amateur-professional organization.

Information relayed by WP3R indicated that due to seismic activity, inspections of the telescope continue to be delayed, especially with a 4.9 magnitude quake registered that morning. [As of 28 January, inspection of infrastructure has finally begun.] Electricity and water remained OK, albeit with some brief outages (15 min) here and there. The south of the island near Ponce is in significantly worse shape however: 700 homes were affected by the quakes, with 85 completely destroyed, and schools are expected to remain closed until all buildings have been inspected.