Iconic radio telescope in Puerto Rico to be demolished

29 2006 obtained from the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center website shows the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico

A second cable break on 7 November tore through Arecibo's dish panels and brought the suspended instrument platform to the verge of collapse.

NSF officials noted that even if crews were to fix all the damage, engineers found that the structure would still be unstable in the long term. One of those reports cited a high likelihood of catastrophic failure should another cable break, and Thornton Tomasetti, an engineering firm that has been on-site, recommended "the controlled demolition of the structure as soon as pragmatically possible".

The official clarified that the dismantling of the radio telescope does not mean that the Arecibo Observatory will disappear, a scientific facility that has other facilities that, in principle, will be maintained, although most of the researchers will be transferred to other centers in the United States.

"NSF prioritizes the safety of workers, Arecibo Observatory's staff and visitors, which makes this decision necessary, although unfortunate", NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement.

Completed in 1963, the Arecibo telescope was the largest single-aperture radio telescope in the world until 2016 when China inaugurated a 500-metre-wide spherical telescope.

The NSF said it intends to restore operations at the observatory's remaining assets including its two LIDAR facilities, one of which is located in the nearby island of Culebra.

"Our team has worked tirelessly.looking for ways to stabilize the telescope with minimal risk", UCF President Alexander Cartwright said Thursday in a statement.

"Moving forward, we encourage [the foundation] to continue its support for the Angel Ramos Foundation Science and Visitor Center as an active hub of. education and outreach programming in Puerto Rico, and to explore opportunities to use the site for exciting new science in the future", committee Chairwoman Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, and ranking member Rep.

Given the fact that any stabilization or fix scenario would require workers to be on or near the telescope structure, the degree of uncertainty about the cables' strength and the extreme forces at work, NSF accepted the recommendation to prepare for controlled decommissioning of the 305-meter telescope. UCF acted quickly, and the evaluation process was following its expected timeline, considering the age of the facility, the complexity of the design and the potential risk to workers. Arecibo Director Francisco Cordova said there's still a lot of work to be done at the facility, even with the main dish offline. "While this outcome is not what we had been working towards, and we are disheartened to see such an important scientific resource decommissioned, safety is our top priority". "There's there's still a lot to do here at Arecibo".

An action scene from the James Bond film "GoldenEye" takes place above the telescope, and in the film "Contact" an astronomer played by Jodie Foster uses the observatory in her quest for alien signals.

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