To the east of the tourist town of Bad Münstereifel there are broad patches of forest on the hilltops of the Eifel. The area is only thinly populated and hikers are able to enjoy the countryside to the full. But near the hamlet of Effelsberg the forest suddenly opens out onto a gigantic white bowl lying in a valley; an object from another world that resembles a flying saucer. The "bowl" has a diameter of 100 metres and is one of the largest moveable radio telescopes in the world today. It weighs no less than 3,200 tons and, thanks to its ten motors, its gigantic aerials whose surface area covers 7,850 square metres can listen into the furthest depths of the universe. The fine sensors in the observatory, built in 1972 can pick up weak signals for the staff at the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy to evaluate. The results enable them to learn more about the structure and composition of the Milky Way, comets and asteroids.
The telescope is so sensitive that reception can even be disturbed by motor-car noises and mobile phone users in the immediate vicinity. This explains why there is a total ban on both. To get to the telescope visitors have to park their cars in a parking lot some ten to fifteen minutes distance by foot from the information pavilion. To make the walk more interesting, the 800 metre distance between the two has been designed as a "planetary footpath" providing plenty of valuable information about the planets and the solar system. In the observatory pavilion, guests can see a slide show complete with a commentary, and receive comprehensive information in the form of brochures and leaflets. Between April and October groups who book in advance can also take advantage of informative talks. It goes without saying that there are some wonderful views of the radio telescope, just begging to be photographed.
Only 15 kilometres away from the huge telescope in Effelsberg, to the north-west of Bad Münstereifel, on Stockert hill stands the oldest radio telesecope in Germany. It was made in 1956 and is now a listed monument. The "Förderverein Astropeiler e.V." has started maintenance work on the technical building in order to preserve it in an appropriate manner and make it accessible to the general public in the near future.