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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Searching for asteroids, extraterrestrial life a little more rocky: Budget cuts threaten to close Arecibo, world's largest radio telescope

>>Click here for the EXCLUSIVE report.

For nearly half a century the world's largest telescope, the Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, has been observing the our solar system and the universe around it. Completed by Cornell University along with the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1963, Arecibo's enormous size gives it the ability to collect more light than any other telescope, allowing it to observe objects that are too faint for other radio telescopes to see. Its main purposes are radio astronomy, aeronomy and radar astronomy, but is probably most famous for its continuing use to search for and communicate with extraterrestrial life outside our solar system and beyond.

Now Arecibo is facing severe budget cuts which could ultimately close the facility. In an in depth exclusive report, Wikinews examined how much the observatory's budget was at risk and what the possible outcomes could be for the programs currently relying on Arecibo as their main research tool. Wikinews also spoke to several individuals closely affiliated with projects and facilities who use significant time at the observatory.

Currently, the NSF funds the operations of Arecibo with just over US$10 million every year. By 2011 they plan to drastically cut that funding to only $4 million a year, nearly 65% less than the current budget. To counter that loss, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill that would authorize NASA to spend at least 2 million dollars of their nearly $21 billion budget to fund portions of Arecibo until 2009. But that still leaves more than half of the loss to be recovered, and if something isn't done soon the facility will be closed by 2011 — or sooner if additional cuts are made.

>>Click here for the EXCLUSIVE report.

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