Arecibo Observatory damaged in accident, operations suspended

Science operations have been suspended at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico after the radio telescope was damaged on Monday August 10. An auxiliary cable supporting a platform appears to have snapped and fallen, damaging the dish.

Reports say that the cable broke at around 2:45 am, and it then fell onto the reflector dish, creating a gash 100 ft (30 m) long and damaging up to eight panels in the Gregorian Dome. The platform it was supporting has also been twisted, making it inaccessible.

For now, it remains unclear why the cable broke and operations have been suspended at the observatory until it can be repaired.

“We have a team of experts assessing the situation,” says Francisco Cordova, director of Arecibo Observatory. “Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world.”

This isn’t the first time the telescope has suffered setbacks like this. In 2017 Arecibo was damaged in Hurricane Maria, which took the facility offline for a few days and forced it to work at reduced capability for a few months.

The Arecibo Observatory is regularly used to track near-Earth asteroids, investigate radio sources, and occasionally beam messages out to any aliens that might be listening.

Source: University of Central Florida

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