The world's 2nd largest telescope will be destroyed due to irreparable damage

It will be a sad day for astronomers.

Before China built the Sky Eye, the title of the world’s largest telescope belonged to Arecibo in Puerto Rico, a US territory in the Caribbean.

The Arecibo Observatory is a radio telescope with a main reflector 305 m wide and a 75-ton rotunda that houses second reflecting surfaces, as well as radar transmitters and microwave receivers. One of Arecibo’s main missions is to receive radio waves from various celestial bodies in the universe. However, it suffered severe structural damage when a cable broke this past August, and the situation has only gotten worse over time.

The world's 2nd largest telescope will be destroyed due to irreparable damage
The Arecibo Observatory reflector was damaged by a cable break .

And finally yesterday, November 19, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that it will begin a plan to decommission this telescope, ending its 57 years of service.

“The decision was made after the NSF evaluated multiple reports by independent engineering firms that suggested the telescope’s structure was at risk of serious damage and its cables could no longer be capable of carrying the payload. that they are designed to support,” NSF said in a statement.

The world's 2nd largest telescope will be destroyed due to irreparable damage
A large crack in the reflector disk of the Arecibo Observatory can be seen in this November 2020 image.

The problem was not only because the cable broke in August, but a second piece of cable also failed in early November. This was a main cable and the break caused it to fall into the reflector disc, damaging part of it. disk and other cables nearby. The cables are designed to support a 900-ton pedestal suspended 137 meters above the reflector.

“Each remaining cable of the structure is now bearing more weight than before, increasing the potential for further cable failures, resulting in the collapse of the entire structure,” the University of Central Florida said in a statement. Dad on 11/13. This unit is the facility management division for the National Science Foundation.

The Arecibo Observatory was used as the setting in a dramatic fight scene in the 1995 film GoldenEye. It also appeared in Jodie Foster’s 1997 film Contact as well as many other film productions. But Arecibo’s real legacy lies in the many scientific discoveries it made possible. This observatory has helped discover stars, expand our knowledge of Mercury, discover new planets, and find Fast radio bursts.

Many scientists took to Twitter to share their grief with the Arecibo observatory.

“This is a huge scientific punch. The end of an era,” said planetary scientist Tanya Harrison.

“I’m surprised we’re losing Arecibo. Even if you don’t pay much attention to terrestrial astronomy, you know this telescope from movies and popular culture. It’s in a certain position. that’s very special,” field geophysicist Mika McKinnon tweeted.

NSF’s decommissioning plan will focus on the telescope while trying to preserve the surrounding observatory structures. “Once all the necessary preparations have been made, the telescope will be disassembled in a controlled manner,” the organization said.