Visualizing Science

Arecibo Observatory

Preserving more than half a century of valuable data

The Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest telescope from 1963 until 2016, played an integral role in key scientific breakthroughs including the first discovery of a binary pulsar and extrasolar planet, the composition of the ionosphere, and the characterization of potentially hazardous asteroids.

Damage from a hurricane and earthquakes led to the structural degradation of the dish, and its decommission in 2020.

After its decommission, the observatory coordinated with TACC to store and preserve the valuable data that had accrued over more than half a century. Personnel from TACC and Arecibo worked on site to transfer over two petabytes of spinning disk over the course of nine months, and shipped over 6,000 tapes to TACC’s data center that have not been digitized, or likely viewed in decades.

TACC is now hosting this data for access by researchers.

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TACC’s Andew Hardy inspects tapes at the Arecibo Observatory in preparation to ship them to TACC for digitization and storage.