The first cable slipped out of its socket on Aug. 10 at 2:45 a.m. local time. The telescope has supported and contributed to important discoveries in radio astronomy as well as planetary and solar system research, including gravitational waves. "It's quite clearly an extremely worrisome situation," Don Campbell, who began his career at Arecibo in 1965 and eventually served as the observatory's director in the 1980s, told Space.com. "Arecibo is still very much a telescope that is at the forefront of many areas and its loss would be tremendous," Campbell said. New York, Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. The operators of the observatory are hoping to move quickly but thoroughly through their plans to avoid a collapse. Arecibo Observatory, home of the second largest radio telescope in the world, was badly damaged in 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. But for the observatory, things would only get worse. Visit our corporate site. "I'm totally scared of what's happening at the observatory now. Space is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. Photos of the damage make it seem particularly nasty, but Arecibo’s main reflector dish is comprised of 40,000 panels — making the overall destruction very small. But in the end, a preponderance of data showed that we simply could not do this safely. Damage at the Arecibo Observatory in August, 2020. Credit: NSF/NAIC. While this is a profound change, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain that strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.". The NSF is also considering expanding the learning center, although the ongoing pandemic will impact that for the time being. The reflective dish is 1,000 feet in diameter, 167 feet deep, and covers an area of about 20 acres. And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected] No one was expecting the snap on Nov. 6 as engineers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico weighed their options for dealing with damage to the facility from a cable failure over the summer. "The first cable failure was certainly a surprise and of strong concern … With the second cable failure, obviously things became significantly more serious.". There was a problem. "For nearly six decades, the Arecibo Observatory has served as a beacon for breakthrough science and what a partnership with a community can look like. Arecibo Observatory’s main collecting dish, which is among the world’s largest single-dish radio telescopes, was badly damaged when a cable snapped on Monday, Aug. 10. Amanda Kooser ", Evaluating the situation is also difficult, since reaching the suspended platform and the towers that anchor its supporting cables is dangerous. This led to the NSF making the decision to decommission the telescope after 57 years. Engineers were assessing and working on a plan to repair the damage when another main cable on the tower broke on November 6. Our image of the day. In the meantime, scientists connected to Arecibo Observatory are hoping for the best. The observatory's helipad and well water were vital resources for those living near the facility. Famed Arecibo Observatory suffers more damage as 900-ton platform falls The telescope, star of a James Bond movie, was set to be decommissioned despite a petition to save it. Even if the repairs could be done safely, the engineering team determined the structure would present long-term stability issues. They determined that the telescope could collapse because it is "in danger of catastrophic failure" and the cables are weaker than expected. In 2014, a strong earthquake damaged parts of the facility, including a cable that the facility's managers were hoping to replace later this year. The damage inflicted on Arecibo by Hurricane Maria came at a particularly inopportune time for the observatory, which was beset with major funding problems at the time. Arecibo Observatory telescope, a Puerto Rico landmark, collapses after damage After sustaining severe damage from a broken cable, the famed Arecibo Observatory telescope in Puerto Rico has collapsed. "I'm very much keeping all my fingers crossed that they will figure out how to stabilize the structure and get it repaired. The observatory's main instrument was the Arecibo Telescope, a 305 m (1,000 ft) spherical reflector dish built into a natural sinkhole, … I'm still somewhat hopeful. (Image credit: University of Central Florida), (Image credit: Courtesy of the NAIC - Arecibo Observatory, a facility of the NSF), 'Greenland' offers grim take on how humanity will respond to a comet impact, Watch live @ 3 pm ET: NASA's 'Great Conjunction' guide to the Saturn-Jupiter 'Christmas Star', SpaceX aborts US spy satellite launch due to rocket booster pressure issue, Boeing reveals mission patch for second Starliner orbital flight test, Pictures from space! ", The same is true of the damage the dish has accumulated during the incidents, he said. I am so worried about it. You will receive a verification email shortly. The Arecibo Observatory, a vast and famous telescope that has helped map the cosmos, will be demolished. But any "stress tests" of the cables are being avoided because they could collapse the telescope. ", "It's a precarious situation," he added, "and we just kind of have to wait and see.". Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, On its way down, it damaged observation facilities suspended above the dish, as well as gouging a 100-foot-long (30 meters) "gash" in the fragile dish, according to a statement from the University of Central Florida, which operates the facility. "Controlled demolition, designed with a specific collapse sequence determined and implemented with the use of explosives, will reduce the uncertainty and danger associated with collapse. The observatory, which was featured in the James Bond film "GoldenEye," was completed in 1963 and has been helmed by the NSF since 1970. A resident of Puerto Rico captured aerial footage of the Arecibo Observatory after the telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform fell onto the reflector dish more than 400 feet below on December 1.Carlos G Saavedra Padin recorded this footage while on a helicopter and posted it to Twitter.Padin told Storyful he took the helicopter ride to see the condition of the observatory … The process to decommission a telescope is a complicated one. Arecibo was designed by a scientist at Cornell University, which operated the facility until 2011, with the National Science Foundation (NSF) as the observatory's main funder. It's also Earth's prime sentinel for identifying whether specific asteroids are on a path to hit the planet — and it appeared in the blockbuster movies like James Bond's "GoldenEye" and "Contact," no less. This image shows an overview of the damage to Arecibo Observatory's 305-meter telescope in November. An auxiliary cable came loose from a socket on one of the towers in August, creating a 100-foot gash in the dish. An engineering survey found the damage to the observatory cannot be stabilized without risk to construction workers and staff. This year, throughout January, a series of earthquakes, the strongest a 6.4 temblor, rocked Puerto Rico and the facility closed for inspection. Update on Arecibo Observatory Facility After Telescope Damage Operations at the UCF-managed Arecibo Observatory (pictured here in the spring of 2019) are stopped until repairs can be made from an incident in August that caused a 100-foot-long gash on the telescope’s reflector dish. The latest review revealed that damage to the telescope could not be stabilized without risking staff and the construction team. "You don't see a whole lot of difference when you look at the platform — certainly you do see a couple of extra cables that are hanging down that shouldn't be, they should really be pointing up, and they're pointing down," Cordova said. For more than 50 years, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico was home to the world's biggest single-aperture telescope. "Until these assessments came in, our question was not if the observatory should be repaired but how. "Certainly the dish is fairly damaged," Cordova said, "[but] whenever you look at how big our primary reflector is and you look at what the damage is, it also doesn't look like something that's insurmountable.". "Certainly now with this failure, we understand that that capacity's just not there and that there has been other degradation.". Federal funding for the facility has been cut severely since then, and now a cable holding up the telescope has snapped, damaging the telescope and forcing Arecibo to close. No one was expecting the snap on Nov. 6 as engineers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico weighed their options for dealing with damage to the facility from a cable failure over the summer. Multiple engineering companies reviewed the damage. A view of Arecibo Observatory's suspended platform and science equipment, as seen before damage incurred in 2020. Further evaluations of the broken cable will be conducted, only if they can be carried out safely, to see if they can glean more evidence that could shape their plans. And that is a line we cannot cross," said Ralph Gaume, director of NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences, in a statement. ", The firm also recommended that this be carried out "as soon as pragmatically possible.". The Arecibo Observatory houses the world's second-largest radio telescope. "Hopefully in the next couple days, we'll have that decision," Cordova said. Gut-Wrenching Photos Show Damage at Arecibo Observatory Following Collapse. "When you have access to the towers, when you have access to the platform, there's a million ways you can remove a failed cable, hoist a new cable, things like that," Cordova said. "But this is such a massive structure that even that gets lost in the background size of the telescope platform itself. Therefore, the NSF will decommission Arecibo Observatory… (CNN)After decades of aiding astronomical discoveries, one of the most powerful telescopes on Earth will cease its observation of the universe after sustaining irreparable damage. Get breaking space news and the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more! "I am so worried about it," a scientist familiar with the facility said. A view of damage to the Arecibo Observatory dish caused by a cable failure in August 2020. Observations made by the telescope helped discover the first binary pulsar in 1974 (which led to the 1993 Nobel Prize in physics), supported NASA's Viking mission, produced the first radar maps of Venus' surface and spotted the first exoplanet in 1992. But the past few years have been difficult on the observatory. In 2017, Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico but mostly spared Arecibo. The situation became much more dire on Nov. 6 at 7:39 p.m., when a second cable — this time, one of the primary cables — snapped, compromising the structural integrity of the 900-ton (800,000 kilograms) platform that looms over the dish, holding the facility's antennas and scientific instruments. Related: The Arecibo Observatory: Puerto Rico's giant radio telescope in photos, "That particular situation was evaluated by the engineering team and determined not to be an issue because the capacity of that cable was so much higher than the load that it was taking, that it really shouldn't have been a problem," Cordova said. The NSF plan must meet legal, safety, cultural and environmental requirements. At risk is not just the observatory's half-century history of research spanning astronomy, atmospheric studies, near-Earth asteroids and the search for life beyond Earth. Damage sustained at the Arecibo Observatory 305-meter telescope. NY 10036. After the break on November 6, engineers inspected the rest of the cables and discovered new breaks as well as slippage from some of the sockets on the towers. Scientists have used it to confirm that pulsars are superdense neutron stars, to discover the first planets beyond our solar system and to broadcast a message out into the cosmos in hopes of reaching intelligent alien life. Facing increasing budget pressure, the NSF gradually phased out its funding, transferring operations first to SRI International and then to the University of Central Florida, although the NSF still owns the site. In addition, several assessments stated that any attempt to make repairs could put the lives of workers in danger. "When you can't access the attachment points for these cables, then that becomes a big challenge.". More concerning, scientists say, is the possibility of losing a unique facility with plenty of work left to do. Image : Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images ( Getty Images ) The full extent of the damage is still being assessed. Nestled into a natural basin in the middle of the Puerto Rican jungle, the Arecibo Observatory began science work in 1963 and is the world's second-largest radio dish. As feared, the 900-ton instrument platform collapsed yesterday at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto . The Arecibo Observatory, a huge and previously damaged radio telescope in Puerto Rico that played a key role in astronomical discoveries for more than half a century, completely collapsed on Tuesday. On the ground, Cordova said, the damage doesn't look as bad as it really is. Science operations have been suspended at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico after the radio telescope was damaged on Monday August 10. But just as engineers were ready to begin repairs on that secondary cable, which slipped out of its socket in August, they faced a much more serious challenge: one of the main cables unexpectedly snapped, putting the entire facility at risk. "We believe the structure will collapse in the near future if left untouched," according to a letter by engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti. Any part of the observatory at risk of a collapse has been evacuated and will stay closed. Drones will provide photo surveys that help with the planning. While no direct cause for the breaks has been identified, corrosion is suspected as the main issue. Outside astronomers had to wait over a week to learn that the observatory was still standing. "NSF recognizes the cultural and economic significance of Arecibo Observatory to Puerto Rico, and how the telescope serves as an inspiration for Puerto Ricans considering education and employment in STEM," according to a, Mysterious radio waves detected from space, Arecibo Observatory featured in James Bond film "Goldeneye" shut down, Giant asteroid flying by Earth next week looks like it's wearing a face mask. This will allow the observatory to serve as a hub for research and education in the future. The 305-meter telescope at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will be decommissioned, according to an announcement made by the. Even if engineers could safely fix all the damage and add cables to support the telescope, it would likely have stability issues in the future. Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer. The observatory has put together a suite of options for stabilizing the situation and is waiting for a decision from the National Science Foundation, which owns the facility, about how to proceed. An aerial view of the Arecibo Observatory after the collapse on December 1, 2020. It is operated and managed by a team at the University of Central Florida, the Universidad Ana G. Méndez and Yang Enterprises Inc. Cables connected to three towers hold the telescope in place. Of interest is the LIDAR geospace research facility, the visitor center and the offsite Culebra facility for analyzing precipitation and cloud cover data. 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