We mentioned back in August Gust that a cable failure at the iconic Arecibo Observatory caused significant damage to the dish of the radio telescope. Unfortunately, another cable from the radio observatory has failed, and the famous 1000-foot diameter radio telescope will have to be dismantled. An engineering firm called Thornton Tomasetti has determined that the radio dish and the 900-ton instrument platform are too unstable to repair.
Arecibo was once the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope and has been in service for 57 years. The telescope is a U.S. Funded by the National Science Foundation and administered by the University of Central Florida. It has been featured in movies including Contact and Goldney.
After the first support cable was snapped and cut a distance of 100 feet into the dish, there were plans to repair it. However, the second cable was called on November 6, breaking the second cable was unexpected because it was better than its expected breaking strength. Further investigation revealed that the wires in other main cables were broken and some auxiliary cables were slipping from their sockets.
The current plan is to remove the remaining components of the instrument and temporarily shut down other installations on site. Devices that could potentially be damaged if the telescope components fail catastrophically are being moved. Once the demolition of the giant radio telescope is completed, science and education centers will be re-established.
At this point there is no indication that the telescope itself will be rebuilt. Scientists say that the Arecibo Observatory has changed our understanding of the ionosphere and used it to find life in the universe through the SET program. It is necessary to demolish the radio telescope to preserve the ability to use other resources in the observatory.