Puerto Rico runs out of the iconic Arecibo radio telescope | Science and Ecology | DW

Puerto Rico will be left without what has been one of its hallmarks for almost six decades, the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope, considered one of the main in the world and which will be demolished shortly due to the risk of collapse due to the break of several cables that support it.

The US National Science Foundation (NSF), the entity that owns the historic facility, a world reference for astronomy, reported this Thursday (11/19/2020) through a statement that before the imminent collapse there was no more choice.

The Arecibo radio telescope, built 57 years ago, was one of the largest in the world with a single dish, measuring 305 meters in length and supporting 900 tons of weight, which gives an idea of ​​its magnitude.

After demolishing the radio telescope, an attempt will be made to restore the LIDAR facility, which is used for geospatial research, a visitor center, educational areas, and an external facility on the island of Culebra.

NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan explained that the priority when making the decision was safety, which was currently compromised by the state of the structure. In fact, an exclusion zone had been established at the Observatory facilities and staff evacuated.

The origin that has finally led to the decision to dismantle the radio telescope is the initial break of a first auxiliary cable on August 10, which was followed by another on November 6, which triggered the events. In addition, this Thursday it was reported that two other cables that support the radio telescope, which support the 900-ton load, were also damaged and presented problems that were going to cause the collapse imminently.

Goodbye to a science icon

The statement highlights that the dismantling of the 305-meter radio telescope comes after for 57 years it has served as a world-class resource for research in radio astronomy, planetary, solar and space systems.

This scientific center has an extensive research legacy spanning almost 60 years that includes its contribution to the discovery of a rare pulsar – neutron star – with characteristics that could help understand how the universe is expanding. It has also been vital in the search for systems orbiting close to Earth that could threaten it and for signs of life on other planets.

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