Danger of collapse: Huge Arecibo radio telescope is dismantled

Dhe formerly the world’s largest radio telescope in Puerto Rico is due to be decommissioned due to safety concerns. Investigations by several engineering companies have shown that a catastrophic failure of the structure of the telescope of the observatory in Arecibo is imminent, said the National Science Foundation of the United States (NSF) on Thursday. His cables may no longer be able to carry the loads intended for them. Repairs could put workers in potentially life-threatening situations. Even in the case of repairs, there would likely be long-term stability problems.

In August, a steel cable about three inches thick, which was helping to support a metal platform, broke for unknown reasons. As it fell, it had cracked the telescope’s reflector bowl about 30 meters long and damaged the dome and a platform. In addition, there was damage caused to the observatory by Hurricane Maria 2017. The telescope has been temporarily closed for the duration of the repairs. Then on November 6th, according to NSF, a main cable tore.

All possibilities to save the telescope have been investigated. Ultimately, however, the data showed that repairs are not possible in a safe way. Now preparations are being made to dismantle the telescope, it said. The aim is to preserve as much of the remaining infrastructure of the observatory as possible for future research and educational purposes.


Archive recording from 2006: Arecibo is located on the north coast of the Caribbean island.
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Image: AFP

57 years of revolutionary star research

The radio telescope in Puerto Rico was the largest in the world at 305 meters in diameter until 2016, when an even larger one went into operation in China. It started operating in 1963 and was ultimately still one of the most sensitive telescopes in the world. In 1974 the American astronomers Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor discovered with him the double pulsar PSR 1913 + 16 – two orbiting neutron stars – and indirectly observed gravitational waves with it.

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