From 1963 until 2016, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico had the largest single-aperture telescope in the world, at 1,000 feet in diameter. You saw it in the movie Contact or maybe Goldeneye or on the X-Files. But the telescope is at the end of its life. Hurricane damage led to a cable break in August, and another in November. That left the dish in a precarious position, and after an engineering assessment, the National Science Foundation has decided to decommission the telescope and develop a plan to demolish it.
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The problem started on August 10, when an auxiliary cable slipped from its socket, falling onto the dish below and causing considerable damage. Then on November 6, a main cable snapped, and it too fell onto the structure. With those two support cables gone, concerns emerged about the overall stability of the structure.
Independent engineering assessments grimly concluded that the observatory is at imminent risk of catastrophic failure, as the remaining cables are no longer capable of carrying the loads they were initially designed for. These cables are currently holding a 900-ton platform that’s dangling 450 feet (137 meters) above the dish. Three towers hold these cables in place, and they too are at risk of collapsing and falling into the dish, Gaume explained. What’s more, repairs to these cables would put work construction workers in serious danger.
The management of the beloved telescope made it clear that the Arecibo Observatory will remain, with the telescope demolition planned to spare the facility’s other buildings. Read more at Gizmodo.
(Image credit: Bigeez)