Arecibo telescope damaged

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UBT - Timbo
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Arecibo telescope damaged

Post by UBT - Timbo » Tue Aug 18, 2020 1:39 am

Hi all

I found out that the Arecibo dish has been badly damaged, in the early hours of 10th August, by a broken steel suport cable that once "free" of it's mounting, lashed around and broke up about a 30m wide hole in the dish as well as some panels in the Gregorian dome that houses some of the receiving equipment.

Fortunately, it happened at a time (about 2:45am), when few people were active on the observatory and so no injuries have been reported.

Report showing major damage to the dish:
https://earthsky.org/space/arecibo-obse ... hing-cable

This is from University of Central Florida that helps to fund the site on behalf of the NSF:
https://www.ucf.edu/news/broken-cable-d ... servatory/

This shows the broken cable in it's report:
https://www.space.com/arecibo-observato ... -down.html

And another report:
https://astronomynow.com/2020/08/11/are ... ble-break/

Obviously, this is unlikely to affect SETI@home who have mostly shut down their project.

However, the lack of new observations especially of NEO's, will mean that other observatories will need to fill in the gap until Arecibo can be repaired.

regards
Tim

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Re: Arecibo telescope damaged

Post by UBT - Timbo » Wed Nov 18, 2020 6:00 pm

Hi all

It seems that more damage has occurred at Arecibo and there is now a real threat that the central 900-ton receiver section, which is being supported by the broken/fraying cable support system, could actually crash into what's left of the dish surface below.

More info here:

https://www.theregister.com/2020/11/17/ ... e_warning/

The way to fix the cables is problematic, as there are a number of factors that make it very difficult:

1) The receiver section was probably lifted up in position, when it was being built and before the main dish was completed - the dish will now be in the way of any cranes that could help support the receiver until new cables are put in place.
2) Arecibo is in Puerto Rico, which has suffered significantly due to bad weather in the last 2-3 years and of course continues to be affected - so just getting cranes and construction equipment there is going to be difficult, never mind deploying them
3) The original and still surviving support cables are about 60 yrs old and have been in a humid, tropical atmosphere all this time, so all the cables really need to be replaced...so that it can carry on for many more years... BUT US Govt is only spending money/approving budgets for Moonshots and Mars rovers, so not much left for Arecibo.
4) They will need to act quickly and get new cables made pretty sharpish, as any further cable failures will put more stress on those cables that remain which could weaken them further (due to the increaased load)...

regards
Tim

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Re: Arecibo telescope damaged

Post by damienh » Wed Nov 18, 2020 6:14 pm

Wow, I'd heard something about this 'gash' in the dish ... it looks rather more than a gash!

Image

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Re: Arecibo telescope damaged

Post by UBT - Timbo » Thu Nov 19, 2020 9:00 pm

_115574826_dbf96a6d-2ace-4ebe-b8a2-7409fc8b350b.jpg
(image courtesy of UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA}

Hi all

And so it *IS* the end of an era...Arecibo is going to be decommissioned and dismantled. :o

This is a very sad day for those interested in science, big data and space exploration...

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-55008567

Such a great shame...but given the damage done, someone needs to either throw a lot of money at it (and repair it), or throw less money at it and close it down...and that's the decision that's been made. :-(

One hopes that parts of it can be salvaged and put on display somewhere...and maybe someone like Musk or Bezos can emulate what Paul Allen did and fund a replacement "giant" radio telescope somewhere else?

And of course SETI@home used Arecibo mostly for collecting data both for teh original SETI@home screensaver "app" as well as generating interest in the repalcement interface that was/is BOINC.

regards
Tim
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Re: Arecibo telescope damaged

Post by UBT - Timbo » Sat Nov 21, 2020 3:02 pm

Hi all

Into the public domain has been posted a report about the history of the telescope, its funding, its achivements and what has happened at Arecibo more recently, and the potential to repair it.

It's a fairly "hefty" document (link below) some 54 pages long....

https://media.telemundopr.com/2020/11/E ... erials.pdf

It's a great read...

But sadly, it now looks like explosives are going to be used to "dismantle" the main receiver section (the 900-ton "bit" that is supported in mid-air) as there is no way to take it down carefully...plus no-one can enter the receiver section (to retrieve anything) as the entire support system for the assembly is so fragile, that it could fall onto the main dish at any time.

https://www.theregister.com/2020/11/19/ ... missioned/

Of course, nature could interfere with this plan and take matters into it's own hands...it just needs one big storm and high winds and the whole lots could come crashing down.

Such a sad end for something that has been at the forefront of scientific discovery for nearly 60 years.

regards
Tim

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Re: Arecibo telescope damaged

Post by Woodles » Thu Nov 26, 2020 10:02 am

It was also used for watching out for possible asteroid impacts - https://www.planetary.org/articles/plan ... o-reaction
Of immediate concern is the telescope’s role in tracking and characterizing asteroids. Arecibo’s planetary radar was the most powerful in the world, observing roughly 100 near-Earth asteroids per year. Half of those were newly discovered objects whose orbits were not precisely known. Arecibo observations helped scientists determine whether an asteroid would hit our planet and ensured their trajectories were catalogued for future observations.

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Re: Arecibo telescope damaged

Post by UBT - Timbo » Wed Dec 02, 2020 8:02 pm

Hi all

Sadly, the main central receiver section at Arecibo has now collapsed into the dish, taking with it the remaining support cables and the tops of the 3 support towers.

The pictures are quite tragic, on the BBC website:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-55147973

5464.jpg
So, it's end of an era and Arecibo (the telescope) obviously decided it didn't want to be decommissioned with explosives and took matters into it's own hands...and made a fateful "belly flop" onto the main dish.


Edit: This YouTube clip gives an idea of what has happened..and that the final collapse may have been caused by a minor earthquake in the Dominican Republic shortly beforehand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vchDbyIRP44

A sad end to a marvellous piece of scientific equipment...

regards
Tim
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