MI6 visits the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the real-life location of the final showdown between 007 and 006 in "GoldenEye"

The World Of James Bond Movies - Arecibo Observatory
19th April 2005

At the end of Goldeneye we find James Bond and Natalya Simonova in Cuba looking for a gigantic satellite dish that they have been told by the CIA does not exist.

Flying over a lake they are shot down, and after recovering from the crash landing they watch as the lake drains, exposing the huge radio telescope used to control the Goldeneye satellite.

This section of the film was actually filmed in Puerto Rico, the 305-metre satellite dish in reality the Arecibo Observatory, the largest radio telescope in the world.

Above: The dish is located in Puerto Rico (circled)

Separated from Cuba by Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is ideally situated to double as Cuba, and belonging to the Commonwealth of The United States (a situation that many Puerto Ricans are unhappy with), straightforward for filmmakers to access.

Above: The Arecibo Observatory is the largest radio telescope in the world.

Operated by the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), the radio telescope works around the clock and is available to scientists throughout the world to observe the universe. The large size of the dish, which is covered in 38,778 perforated aluminium panels, makes it extremely sensitive to distant radio signals and measurements that can take several hours with a smaller dish can be completed in several minutes at Arecibo.

Above: A view into the dish

Suspended above the dish by three reinforced concrete towers, one of 110 metres and the other two 80 metres high, is a platform weighing over 800 tonnes. Below the triangular upper frame of the platform are a circular track and a curved track that suspends a dome (installed subsequent to Goldeneye in 1996), containing two sub-reflectors to refocus radiation to a set of antennae.

A system of 26 electric motors allows the dome to be moved via the two tracks, allowing the telescope to be focused in the sky. Attached to the antennae are very sensitive radio receivers, which are immersed in liquid helium to reduce electron noise and visitors to the site are required to turn off mobile phones to avoid interference.

To allow work on the dish special shoes must be worn. Similar to a snowshoe, they protect the panels from damage by distributing the wearer’s weight.

The observatory is open to the pubic and can be reached from San Juan in 1 hour 15 minutes by road, the last section of which involves a spectacular winding drive amid lush tropical vegetation.

Cost is $4 per person and includes entrance to a small exhibition, a short film, and a viewing area from where visitors can look down at the dish. Opening hours are 12:00-16:00 Wednesday-Friday and 09:00-16:00 at weekends.

Right: One of the special shoes required to walk on the dish for maintenance.


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Article by David Leigh.