Published: Sat, November 21, 2020
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NSF Decommissions Famous Arecibo Observatory

NSF Decommissions Famous Arecibo Observatory

The observatory, in northern Puerto Rico, has contributed to radio astronomy, astrophysics, atmospheric studies and solar system astronomy knowledge for 57 years, per NPR. The University of Central Florida said in a statement On November 13th. Scientists worldwide have used the dish along with the 900-ton platform hanging 450 feet above it to track asteroids on a path to Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize and determine if a planet is potentially habitable. The NSF authorised the engineering analyses that were the prerequisites for repairs. While they were putting together a plan to fix the telescope, another cable snapped, causing more damage to the reflector dish. The Observatory suffered serious injuries Damage due to a cable failure in August, And the situation only got worse.

Inspections of the other cables revealed new wire breaks on some of the main cables, which were original to the structure. Significant slippage was found at several of the sockets which held the remaining auxiliary cables (which had been installed in the 1990s, as part of a refit of the telescope that had increased the weight of the instrument platform).

Engineers have not yet determined the cause of the initial cable's failure, a NSF spokesperson said, but as the repairs required could not be done safely, a controlled demolition will be undertaken instead.

As soon as such a warning was received by the safety experts, the authorities made a decision to demolish the structure shortly. "A controlled decommissioning gives us the opportunity to preserve valuable assets that the observatory has". "There's an incredibly diverse and incredible group of scientists and dedicated staff and engineers at the observatory, and I mean, I think it is their passion to continue to explore, to learn, and that is the true heart and soul of Arecibo", she said. The other agreed with Thornton Tomasetti that the structure was too risky to work on. The company also endorsed the findings and recommendations of Thornton Tomasetti. After an auxiliary cable broke in August and a main cable at the beginning of this month, NSF had engineering assessments completed.


Given the risks to personnel, the NSF made a decision to accept the recommendations of the majority of the engineering entities consulted about the telescope.

UCF-managed Arecibo Observatory, pictured above in spring 2019, has stopped all operations while NSF and UCF plan how to safely disassemble the telescope.

Accidents at the site - which also famously served as the stage for the James Bond movie GoldenEye, as well as contact Jodie Foster - prompted the US National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent government agency, to request time at the facility.

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