Huge Puerto Rico radio telescope to close in blow to science

The famous Arecibo telescope that worked to make the James Bond movie

In August, a cable slipped out of a socket on Tower 4, carving a 100-foot-long gash into the dish.

While the main telescope will be decommissioned, the NSF said it intends to safely preserve other parts of the observatory that could be damaged or destroyed in the event of an unplanned, catastrophic collapse.

The dish itself is responsible for a number of fascinating discoveries throughout its 57-year operational history, including the first radar image of an asteroid and the first discovery of exoplanets, though it's especially recognisable for its famous cameo in the final act of 1995's GoldenEye.

"Even attempts to stabilize or test the cables can result in the acceleration of catastrophic failure", said Ralph Gaume, director of NSF's astronomy division. This was one of the four primary cables, each of which should have been capable of holding 544 tonnes - but "snapped under only" 283 tonnes, according to a report then by the Associated Press.

Engineers have not yet determined the cause of the initial cable's failure, a NSF spokesperson said, but as the repairs required could not be done safely, a controlled demolition will be undertaken instead.

"For almost six decades, the Arecibo Observatory has served as a beacon for breakthrough science and what a partnership with a community can look like". But in the real legacy of Arecibo Lots of scientific discoveries It was possible.

Arecibo was also famed for a radio message sent into space in 1974 which carried basic information about our planets and the people that live it on.

What the entire astronomy and astrophysics community feared has materialized: the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico - one of the oldest, most renowned and beloved on the planet - will be permanently disabled and its big antenna, probably imploded. But it was soon being used as an all-purpose radio observatory.

"What I love the most about working with Arecibo is how it is a community institution; it has broadened Puerto Rican participation in science in immeasurable ways", says Puerto Rican astronomer Kevin Ortiz Ceballos via Twitter, and one of many whose admiration for the observatory inspired them to study the stars. The officials said that this meant a lot to the community of Puerto Rico and they will miss it a lot in future.

This 900-tonne dome hangs 500 m above the vast dish of the telescope with the help of 18 thick steel cables attached to three concrete towers.

The independent, federal-funded company said operating a single-dish radio telescope was too risky - and one of the largest in the world - that it had suffered significant damage recently. Other facilities located at the Arecibo observatory will remain in operation.

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