The U.S. National Science Foundation has announced the closure of a large telescope at the prestigious Arecibo Laboratory in Puerto Rico. Apart from that, it was also used for geospace research and analyzing the solar system. Puerto Rico takes great pride in Arecibo's rich 57-year history, particularly its role in the search for life beyond our planet, also known as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).
The Arecibo Observatory space telescope on November 7, 2020. After going over three separate engineering reports, the NSF, which owns the property, has decided the facility is unstable enough that there is no way to fix the damage that does not put personnel at undue risk, according to Space.com. However, on November 6, a second cable, also on tower four, snapped.
The authorities at the National Science Foundation said that this was not an easy decision as the massive radio telescope had served several scientists across the globe for many decades.
"I was hoping against hope that they would come up with some kind of solution to keep it open", he said.
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In August, one of these cables slipped and fell onto the dish below, resulting in a "gash" in the dish about 30 m long, having ripped off its reflective panels.
Arecibo Laboratory reflection dish suffered damage from broken cable. While fix plans were being developed, a main 3-inch cable attached to the same tower snapped in November, causing the instrument platform to tilt and placing additional stress on the remaining cables.
"Each of the remaining cables in the structure now supports more weight than before, which increases the chance of another cable malfunctioning, leading to the collapse of the entire structure".
"Although it saddens us to make this recommendation, we believe the structure should be demolished in a controlled way as soon as pragmatically possible". However, demolition will be done in a controlled way.
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The independent, federally funded agency said it's too risky to keep operating the single dish radio telescope - one of the world's largest - given the significant damage it recently sustained.
Experts are however trying to preserve The Other instruments at the site so that they could be used for similar installations in future.
The telescope was built in the 1960s amid a push to develop anti-ballistic missile defences. "At a time when public interest and scientific curiosity about space and the skies has re-intensified, there remains much to understand about the data that has been acquired by Arecibo". Even though it has survived a lot of natural calamities like hurricanes and strong earthquakes in the past, it is no longer able to support the structure.
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