One of the World’s Largest Radio Telescopes Gets Damaged


Manage episode 273659233 series 2530089
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A broken steel cable severely damaged the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Arecibo, an observatory supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), has been an important tool for astronomical research for almost 60 years. Last August, the Arecibo radio telescope, one of the world’s largest and most powerful telescopes, shut down after a broken steel cable created a 30-meter gash on its 307-meter-wide reflector dish. The snapped cable was an auxiliary one that supported a metal platform with a large antenna. Florida Space Institute director Ramon Lugo said the broken steel cable had a lot of stored energy, which caused it to flail around, damaging parts of the telescope. As investigations took place, observations in the facility were suspended. The cost of the damage has not been determined, and Lugo said the repairs may take days or even months. Lugo added that the telescope had sustained damage when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, but he believes that the damage caused by the hurricane is not related to the recent event. He said that if the cable’s snapping turns out to be caused by a manufacturing defect, the facility will have to check the other auxiliary cables as well. Arecibo’s status in the scientific community has been uncertain over the past few years. The observatory’s significance has decreased as newer facilities continue to open, and the NSF reduced its funding to support other projects. According to Lugo, the recent incident, in addition to the one that took place in 2017, will likely open a discussion on Arecibo’s future. However, Lugo assured that they will remain focused on restoring the telescope.

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