Please save the Jicamarca Radio Observatory

English: The Jicamarca Radio Observatory (JRO)...
The Jicamarca Radio Observatory (ROJ), near Lima , Peru, is the premier scientific facility in the world for studying the equatorial ionosphere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you think the ionosphere is something we don’t need to care about? Think again. Television signals, military tactical communications, and GPS satellites require a good understanding of this area of our atmosphere to operate properly.

A key facility to study the ionosphere, the Jicamarca Radio Observatory (ROJ) is on risk of becoming unusable due to the private interest of a landfill owner. Please help us protect the observatory by signing this petition for the Peruvian congress (petition translated in this post).

During the early days of space exploration the US National Bureau of standards required a facility to explore the ionosphere from the earth’s surface. They needed a unique extended flat location near the magnetic equator, with moderate weather year-long, isolated from lateral radiation, and close enough to a mayor city to get the material and human resources needed for its construction and maintenance. They found the ideal place in the coastal mountains of the Peruvian desert. The Jicamarca valley is a short drive away from the city of Lima, it is ideally surrounded by mountains, and it is just kilometers from the magnetic equator. This great observatory is the biggest of its kind worldwide and it has provided about 90% of what it is known from the equatorial ionosphere. For fifty years it has been a beacon for scientific progress in Peru and the launching pad for science projects in the region, like the MeriHill Optical observatory. The research at ROJ produced over 700 published papers and 54 international PhD dissertations.

Unfortunately, its location near Lima is getting to be a problem. Urban sprawl became a clear menace to the proper functioning of the observatory and in the year 2002 the Peruvian congress approved a law to protect the area surrounding the observatory.  A private company that has the monopoly of trash management in Lima has fought the execution of the law for over nine years in the tribunals, to keep their landfill expansion inside the protected area. Last May the Jicamarca observatory was inexplicable removed from a list of investment projects with national priority that would have allowed the nation to expropriate the land in dispute, and now is on risk of losing the legal battle with the trash mogul. We need your help to tell the Peruvian congress that this observatory is an invaluable scientific resource that needs to be protected. Please sign the petition at the end of this post!

The main facility at Jicamarca Observatory: The 49.9MHz incoherent scatter radar.

The truly unique facility build in Jicamarca sends a high-power radio-wave pulse perpendicular to the magnetic field of the earth, and uses an extended antenna array of 64 separate modules of 12 X 12 crossed half-wave dipoles to measure the incoherent scatter coming from the ionosphere (300m x 300m area, see photo above for scale). I added a very dated video to give you an idea of the setup for the observatory, the facility is mostly the same except for  the modern acquisition systems and the new 1.5 MW transmitters that replace the old set of four described on the video.Start on minute 1:

If you want to help, please visit the link to the petition: Save the Jicamarca Science Observatory (in Spanish, see translation bellow)

Petition for the Congress of Peru

Let’s save the ROJ (Radio Observatory Jicamarca). Please execute approved law #27816.

Created by Ernesto Cabral, Lima, Peru. Translated by Ivan Gonzalez, Seattle, WA, USA.

The Jicamarca Radio Observatory is one of the biggest radar arrays in the world devoted to scientific research; the world’s pioneer facility for ionosphere studies.

The ROJ measured the moon’s surface in preparation to the Apollo XI landing, but its contributions continue today. More than fifty doctoral dissertations, 14 of them from Peruvian scientist, come from the discoveries made at ROJ. This facility is managed by the Peruvian Geophysical Institute (IGP), in collaboration with Cornell University and the NSF (USA).

Nevertheless, this Peruvian scientific asset is on risk of stopping operations due to the interference of a private landfill owner. He has delayed the execution of a law protecting the area near ROJ for over nine years (law number 27816, approved in 2002). The law protects and area of 1,900 Hectares (~1/5 of Manhattan area) surrounding the observatory in the district of Lurigancho, Chosica. This development-free area is necessary to avoid electromagnetic interference on the radiotelescope measurements, originally in the middle of the desert for that reason.

The landfill owner is using judiciary tricks to delay the process and making unfunded accusations against the director of the IGP to try to stop the execution of the law, putting on risk the more of 30 million dollars invested in this truly unique scientific facility. It is time to execute the law #27816.

Signed by several members of the Peruvian National Academy of Sciences and faculty from prestigious Universities and institutes.

Please join us and sign this petition to protect the Radio Observatory of Jicamarca. The little science made in Peru due to lack of economic resources depends on this facility to keep growing. Click here: Save the Jicamarca Science Observatory.

Watch this video from the MeriHill Optical Observatory that shows the mountains of Jicamarca in need of protection and the city of Lima getting closer to the facility.

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Author: Ivan Fernando Gonzalez

I am a bilingual scientist, science communicator, and community builder. I use storytelling and my multidisciplinary scientific training to connect communities and to amplify the positive impact of science. Find more at: www.ivanfgonzalez.com

One thought on “Please save the Jicamarca Radio Observatory”

  1. Fercho.

    Muy bueno tu artículo. Conciso, claro, documentado, con muy buen ritmo.

    Cómo puedes saber si la gente comprometida en el proyecto del observatorio lee tu artículo?.

    Un abrazo.

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