Home / news / A heavy scientific and economic loss .. The Arecibo Radio Observatory is permanently closed

A heavy scientific and economic loss .. The Arecibo Radio Observatory is permanently closed

On November 19, it was announced that one of the most famous telescopes in astronomy would be closed completely, the radio telescope, which is 305 meters wide. Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

According to the Nature science news site, engineers announced that they could not find a safe way to repair it after the two Kaplan supports for the telescope were suddenly and catastrophically shattered, one last August and the other in early November.

Painful glitches

The day before this closure, the French newspaper Le Monde had said that on November 6, one of the main tension ropes supporting a 900-ton platform broke off and fell from a height of 150 meters onto the giant antenna designed to capture the radio waves coming from space, which reached Its diameter is about 300 meters.

She added that this accident comes in the wake of another accident that occurred on the tenth of last August, which caused another cable to fall on the antenna, leaving a hole with a diameter of 30 meters.

According to the newspaper, according to the University of Central Florida – which oversees the observatory – that only a few cables remain that now carry the platform, and since each one of them “carries more weight than before, this increases the risk of an accident.” Another, which this time is likely to lead to the collapse of the entire structure. “

According to university officials, signs of weakness have already been observed in the remaining cables.

According to Le Monde newspaper, other cables were expected to fall in the following weeks.

Engineers were unable to find a safe way to repair the observatory after the two Kaplan supports of the telescope structure were suddenly and disastrously destroyed (French)

The observatory estimates that the losses will exceed more than 12 million dollars (10.1 million euros), and to repair the damage it was necessary to deduct part of the funds allocated to the National Science Foundation.

According to Rob Margita, a spokesman for the foundation that owns the observatory, the decision to fund the maintenance would have required talks with the US Congress and all stakeholders.

During the 57 years that have passed since its inception, this radio observatory has witnessed a number of storms and earthquakes that have caused it many damages, and the process of repairing the damage caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017 was underway when the first cable was cut.

Scientific and economic wealth

The accidents that affected the observatory affected the work of about 250 scientists who use it, and the observatory is considered essential for studying pulsars, as these stars – which emit very regular radio signals – can be used to detect the passage of gravitational waves.

Alex Voleszsan, an astronomer and professor at Pennsylvania State University, revealed to the Associated Press that the observatory “has existed for more than 50 years, but it is still a very important tool, and losing it would represent a painful blow to what is – in his view – very important research.”

According to National Geographic, the first purpose of the Arecibo Observatory – which was established in 1963 during the Cold War – was to monitor satellites or even Soviet missiles, thanks to the disturbances that these devices cause in the atmosphere.

As for the scientific aspect, the observatory has carried out amazing works, for a year after its opening it was able to determine the period of rotation of the planet Mercury, and after a decade it provided scientists with the first indirect observation of gravitational waves, thanks to which the researcher Joseph Taylor won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1993.

He is credited with the first discoveries of extrasolar planets in the early 1990s, and he was also used to observe asteroids orbiting near Earth.

The observatory was essential for studying pulsars that emit very regular radio signals to detect the passage of gravitational waves (French).

The Arecibo Observatory was the world’s first such instrument, before it was overtaken by the Chinese “Sky Eye” in southwestern China (with a 500-meter antenna), which was established in 2016.

The observatory is known to the general public especially thanks to its appearance in many films, including the movie “Golden Eye” from the James Bond series, and it was considered an important tourist site, as it received 90 thousand visitors annually.

Source : British Press + French Press




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