Arecibo radio telescope to be dismantled, as it could collapse at any time

The observatory of Arecibo, one of the most important in the world, will be dismantled after a series of unfortunate events that caused structural damage. According to AP, the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced that it has made the decision it is too dangerous to keep running it.

According to the organization, damage from the rupture of two cables – one in August and one in November – forced officials to conclude that the Arecibo was not safe. NSF staff said that while repairs are made, the structure would be unstable in the long term and could collapse.

In August, an auxiliary cord supporting a metal platform detached from a socket, causing a 30 meter crack in the reflector plate and damage to the dome. The several-ton cable struck the plate, the Gregorian dome and a platform to access it. In addition to this, 250 reflective panels were affected as well as support cables.

After months of analyzes and days of starting new repair work, a second wire broke in November. According to the University of Central Florida (UCF), the two crashes were related, since the rupture occurred in the same support tower and would have been caused by additional stress after the first accident.

The structure is not secure and presents a serious risk of unexpected collapse

Arecibo Observatory

NSF officials mentioned that the rupture of a second cable would be due to a manufacturing error, since it barely supported 60% of its capacity. The Astronomical Sciences Division said the telescope is at serious risk of unexpected and uncontrolled collapseTherefore, the radio telescope antenna will be demolished without affecting the rest of the assets.

Sean Jones, NSF deputy director for the physical and mathematical sciences branch, mentioned that the decision to dismantle Arecibo was not an easy one, but that personal safety is a priority.

Closing represents a severe blow to the international scientific community. Aleksander Wolszczan, one of the astronomers who helped discover the first exoplanets that revolved around a pulsar, was surprised and disappointed with the decision.

“I was hoping they would find some sort of solution to keep it open,” he said. “For someone who has had much of their scientific life associated with this telescope, this is a very interesting and sadly moving moment.”

While the Arecibo will be dismantled, its legacy will continue as scientists work on projects based on the observations and data from the observatory. Both LIDAR facilities and the visitor center will continue to operate.

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