The observatory’s radio telescope in the Puerto Rican city of Arecibo has been damaged beyond repair, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) reports Thursday. The iconic construction from 1963 with a diameter of 305 meters has been hit by severe storms in recent years. Two cable breaks that occurred this year have killed the radio telescope.
Hurricane Maria, which passed over Puerto Rico in 2017, severely damaged the telescope. A 36 meter long antenna fell down at the time. In August, while repairs were still in progress, one of the nearly three-inch thick steel cables broke, lashing against the instrumentation and causing extensive damage. Another part of the cable partially destroyed the dish.
On November 6, another cable broke and the damage turned out to be too great. The radio telescope will be dismantled and parts will be used for other telescopes.
Until 2016, Arecibo was the largest radio telescope in the world
The Arecibo is famous for its size. The saucer built into the limestone has a diameter of 305 meters. The movable receiver is suspended 150 meters above the dish and is attached with cables to three reinforced concrete towers.
Until 2016, Arecibo was the largest radio telescope in the world. In that year, the record was broken by the Five hundred meters Aperture Spherical Telescope in China.
Because Puerto Rico is close to the equator, Arecibo allowed researchers to observe all the planets in the solar system. The telescope has contributed to several important scientific discoveries.
Shortly after commissioning, scientists determined that Mercury does not revolve in 88 days, but in just 59 days. And in 2003 it turned out that the poles of the moon are not covered with ice after all. Arecibo also played a role in this discovery.
Big role in James Bond movie GoldenEye
In 1974, the so-called Arecibo message was sent into space: a radio message of 1,679 bits intended for extraterrestrial life. In the message, the numbers one to ten were sent, just like a graphic representation of a human and our solar system. The message was sent to a star cluster 25,000 light years from Earth.
The radio telescope can be seen in various feature films, such as Contact, Species, and the television series Cosmos. Arecibo has the biggest role in the James Bond movie GoldenEye.