Puerto Rico facility lets clients see the celestial

ARECIBO, Puerto Rico -- One of Puerto Rico's newest attractions is literally out of this world.

The world of stars and space set amidst the karst forests on Puerto Rico's north coast awaits visitors to the Arecibo Observatory Visitor and Educational Facility. The state-of-the-art facility opened last summer and complements the Arecibo Observatory, the world's largest radar-radio telescope, which attracts thousands of visitors each year. In fact, officials predict that annual attendance will exceed 100,000 visitors, including many students.

More than 565 feet below the 600-ton suspended platform of the observatory, a 20-acre dish set in a sinkhole gathers radio waves from space. Operated by Cornell University, the telescope enables scientists to probe the planets and moon with powerful radar signals and to monitor radio emissions from distant galaxies.

The new visitors center explains the workings of the universe through bilingual interactive exhibits, video displays and information panels. The center is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays. Group tours can be arranged during the week by appointment. The entrance fee is $3.50 for adults.

Just east of Arecibo is a century-old lighthouse, which has been restored as a museum focusing on the city of Arecibo. The lighthouse is open Wednesdays through Sunday; admission is free.

Arecibo Observatory Visitor Facility, Phone: (787) 878-2612, Web: www.naic.edu

Arecibo Lighthouse, Phone: (787) 879-1625

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