A Broken Cable Has Smashed a Huge Hole in The Arecibo Observatory

Just one of the world’s most prominent astronomical observatories has a gap.

On Monday, a three-inch-thick (seventy six-mm-thick) cable at the Arecibo Observatory broke, tearing a gash a hundred ft (thirty metres) very long in the reflector dish of the 20-acre radio telescope in Puerto Rico.


The observatory experienced just reopened following a momentary closure because of to Tropical Storm Isaias when the cable, which helped assist a metal platform, snapped at about 2:forty five am ET.

Now the facility is shut yet again as engineers evaluate the problems, in accordance to the University of Central Florida, a co-operator of the telescope.

It was not right away clear how the cable broke or whether or not the problems was relevant to Isaias.

Astronomers use the telescope to research hazardous asteroids as they fly past Earth, in hopes of identifying place rocks on a collusion program early sufficient to intervene just before they strike.

Experts have also employed Arecibo to look for for signals of intelligent extraterrestrial life. In 1974, Arecibo beamed out the most highly effective broadcast Earth has at any time sent to communicate with prospective aliens.

The damaged cable. (Arecibo Observatory)

Then in 2016, the telescope detected the initially repeating rapid radio bursts – mysterious place indicators of mysterious origin.

The cable’s slide also weakened six to eight panels in the telescope’s Gregorian Dome: the element that focuses its radiation to the details in place that astronomers want to research. It twisted the platform employed to accessibility the dome as very well.


“We have a group of professionals evaluating the condition,” Francisco Cordova, the director of the observatory, reported in a statement.

“Our emphasis is assuring the protection of our personnel, guarding the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to complete functions as soon as achievable, so it can proceed to aid experts all over the world.”

Tropical Storm Isaias passed around Puerto Rico on July thirty, just before it created into a hurricane, leading observatory operators to shutter the facility for a number of days.

They turned it again on earlier this month to research a probably perilous asteroid the dimension of five soccer fields, which was passing Earth at an best distance for the observatory to look at it out.

NASA experienced beforehand calculated a 1 in 70,000 opportunity that the place rock could impression our earth among 2086 and 2101, so astronomers desired to observe it additional intently to superior compute the odds of an impression.

But when a group at Arecibo experienced the telescope at the asteroid to identify its condition and orbit, they learned that it very likely will not pass close sufficient to Earth to pose a risk in the future.

All through these observations, the telescope was functioning very well.

“Thankfully, the storm passed immediately devoid of problems to the telescope or the radar system, and the maintenance and electronics groups were capable to activate the telescope from hurricane lockdown in time for the observations,” Sean Marshall, an observatory scientist who led the group carrying out these radar observations, said at the time.

This article was at first printed by Business Insider.

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