The Arecibo radio telescope will be dismantled, as it could collapse at any moment

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

According to the organization, the damage caused by the rupture of two cables – one in August and the other in November – forced officials to conclude that the Arecibo is not safe. NSF staff stated that even though 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 multi-ton cable impacted the plate, the Gregorian dome and a platform to access it. In addition, 250 reflector panels were affected along with support cables.

After months of analysis and days of starting the new repair work, a second wire broke in November. According to the University of Central Florida (UCF), both accidents 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 safe and is at serious risk of an unexpected collapse

Arecibo Observatory

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

Sean Jones, NSF Deputy Director for the Physical and Mathematical Sciences Directorate, mentioned that the decision to dismantle the Arecibo was not easy to make, but that people’s 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 by the decision.

“I was hoping they would come up with some kind of solution to keep it open,” he said. “For a person who has had much of his scientific life associated with that telescope, this is a very interesting and sadly emotional moment.”

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

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