On Monday August 10, around 2:45 a.m., one of the thick cables supported by the Arecibo observatory fell on the main antenna of the radio telescope. Result? A crack of more than 30 meters which left the observatory inoperative for the time being. One of the main observatories for capturing signals from deep space.
As reported by UCF Today (a Central Florida University media outlet, which is responsible for running the observatory), the broken cable is one of three that hold a metal platform suspended above the main plate. On this platform are sensors, the Gregorian dome with a multibeam receiver and other instruments to collect and interpret the signals picked up by the gigantic main course. These three cables are really thick to be able to support the platform, therefore also heavy, so if one falls from a considerable height, it is more than expected that it will destroy part of the observatory.
One of the cables supporting this metal platform is the one that has been broken.
Francisco Cordova, director of the observatory, indicates that the objective now is “to ensure the safety of our personnel, to protect the installations and the equipment and to restore the installation so that it operates as quickly as possible” . And does Arecibo It serves as a research tool for many scientific teams around the world, which use the powerful ability of the radio telescope to capture signals extremely distant from the universe.
While the damage seems serious, in reality This is not so much because of the damage to the main antenna as it is because there is no cable. To precisely point in space at specific points it is necessary to move the suspended platform and for this cables (including the one that was broken) are required. A photo from another point of view shows how much damage is not so great:
While the photographer in me prefers the perspective of the photo that is already doing the rounds on Twitter, here’s a much less catastrophic telephoto shot, courtesy of Phil Perillat, of damage to @NAICobservatory due to the cable outage on Monday. . pic.twitter.com/bClRxkQk8k
– Dr Joe Swiggum (@swiggumj) August 12, 2020
This damage, although temporarily interrupting Arecibo’s activity, was not the first he suffered. One of the most important is that caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017, from which he has not yet fully recovered and repairs continue.
Five decades of history and discoveries
L’Observatoire Arecibo, to Puerto Rico, the second largest radio telescope in the world after China FAST. With a diameter of 304.80 meters for its main course, it has been for decades one of the most spectacular and important for the investigation of the Universe.
It was built in 1963 and currently Its main focus is the SETI project, which researches extraterrestrial intelligence or advanced technologies outside of Earth.. Among Arecibo’s greatest achievements, we find the discovery of the first exoplanet, the first photo of an asteroid, the first binary pulsar or the exact rotation period of Mercury. But perhaps most curious is the message he sent to a star cluster 25,000 light years away. In this post, there was extremely basic information about humanity such as a drawing of a human or basic chemical formulas.
Source : Engadget