Huge Puerto Rico radio telescope to close

Famed Arecibo telescope, on the brink of collapse, will be dismantled

"While this outcome is not what we had been working toward, and we are disheartened to see such an important scientific resource decommissioned, safety is our top priority", Cartwright said. Therefore, the NSF will decommission Arecibo Observatory's 1,000-foot telescope.

The National Science Foundation says it is shutting down the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico due to safety concerns. Thornton Tomasetti's model suggested there was no course of action that could safely verify the structure's stability and advised against allowing personnel on the telescope's platforms or towers.

Engineers had been examining the structure since August when one of its support cables snapped.

The University of Central Florida, which manages the facility, had recently submitted a request to the foundation for $10.5 million to begin repairs on the August damage. But on 6 November, another cable broke. Based on the stresses borne by the second broken cable, engineers concluded that the remaining cables were likely weaker than originally projected. The 57-year-old observatory, a survivor of numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, is now in such a fragile state that attempting repairs would put staff and workers in danger.

"Until these assessments came in, our question was not if the observatory should be repaired but how", said Ralph Gaume, director of NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences.

"We have a lot of data that we haven't yet had a chance to go over and analyze", said Cordova.

The foundation will now focus on decommissioning the giant structure, which is surrounded by forest in the western half of the island.

The transmission is considered the most powerful to date because it used the Arecibo radio telescope's megawatt transmitter connected to its 305-meter antenna.


Radio astronomy is a field within the larger discipline that observes objects in the Universe by studying them at radio frequencies.

The telescope also helped to make the first definitive detection of exoplanets, planetary bodies orbiting other stars, in 1992.

"Following a review of engineering assessments that found damage to the Arecibo Observatory can not be stabilized without risk to construction workers and staff at the facility, the US National Science Foundation will begin plans to decommission the 305-meter telescope, which for 57 years has served as a world-class resource for radio astronomy, planetary, solar system, and geospace research", the NSF said.

"Moving forward, we encourage [the foundation] to continue its support for the Angel Ramos Foundation Science and Visitor Center as an active hub of. education and outreach programming in Puerto Rico, and to explore opportunities to use the site for exciting new science in the future", committee Chairwoman Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and ranking member Rep.

They added: "Everyone involved with this facility should be proud of what you have achieved".

"At a time when public interest and scientific curiosity about space and the skies has re-intensified, there remains much to understand about the data that has been acquired by Arecibo".

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