Damaged SETI Observatory Could Be Sidelined for Months

The iconic Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico was damaged last week when a large cable fell onto the radio telescope’s main reflector We’re now learning more about this unfortunate incident, including how long it might take until the beleaguered observatory is back online.

Curated via Twitter from Gizmodo’s twitter account….

The Arecibo Observatory is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), but NASA also contributes to the observatory, which it uses to track and study near-Earth asteroids. “Damage to Arecibo is still being assessed by the Observatory management at the University of Central Florida, after which the NSF will consult with stakeholders, including NASA, to determine how to proceed,” explained a NASA spokesperson in an email.

The iconic Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico was damaged last week when a large cable fell onto the radio telescope’s main reflector dish.

During a virtual press conference held on August 14, Francisco Córdova, the director of the Arecibo Observatory, described it as an “unprecedented event,” saying the cables, which were installed around 20 years ago, were supposed to last for another 15 to 20 years.

Lindley Johnson, director of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, was more forthright during an August 17 meeting of NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee, saying Arecibo will probably be out of commission for “several months,” as SpaceNews reports.

During the early morning of Monday August 10, a thick auxiliary cable used to support a metal platform dropped onto the main reflector dish, producing a 100-foot-long gash.

Córdova said 250 primary reflector panels were damaged by the falling cable, as were several support cables underneath the primary dish.

A variety of astronomical work is now on hold, as is an investigation into gravitational waves and NASA’s planetary defense project to track near-Earth asteroids, explained Córdova.

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