Monday , November 29 2021

The Arecibo Observatory is in danger of collapsing



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The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which has been operating since 1963, is in danger of seeing the parabolic fall, due to the deterioration of the giant steel cables that support it, as an important part of the history of astronomy has fallen.

“Because I’m someone who is dependent on Arecibo’s science, I’m scared. The situation is very worrying. There is a possibility of a sinking waterfall by astronomer Scott Ransom of the North American Nanowatt Observatory for gravitational floods Associated Press (AP).

In August, an auxiliary cable, when broken, opened a 30-meter hole in the giant plate, damaging eight Gregorian dome panels (a structure located above the antenna) and twisting the platform used to access the dome (you can see the hole in the image above, taken from a satellite).

The broken cable in August opened a 50-meter hole in the satellite dish.The broken cable in August opened a 50-meter hole in the satellite dish.Source: Arecibo Observatory / Outreach

Now, one of the 12 main steel cables holding the satellite dish 307 meters above the ground, designed to withstand 544 tons, was broken by less than 283 thousand pounds. It is not yet known what caused the fracture.

“Each of the remaining cables in the structure now weighs more than before, increasing the chances of breaking other cables, which would cause the entire structure to collapse,” the Central University of Florida (UCF) said in a statement. head of the observatory.

Signs of rupture

The final damage was probably due to the degradation of the cables over time, along with the extra weight. The observatory, like the entire island, was damaged by the passage of Hurricane Maria, which destroyed Puerto Rico in September 2017.

It was not the first environmental disaster in Arecibo, but a lack of resources continued to make repairs to the observatory three months ago when the first cable was broken.

After breaking the main cable, Rob Margetta, a spokesman for the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF, the independent federal agency responsible for the observatory), said there is still no estimate of the engineering and repair costs required for the observatory. According to him, getting the necessary money (Arecibo is partly funded by NASA) would probably be Congress.

The auxiliary cable, 7.5 cm in diameter, was broken in August and weighed 30 pounds per meter;  More than 200 meters of steel fell on the antenna.The auxiliary cable, 7.5 cm in diameter, was broken in August and weighed 30 pounds per meter; More than 200 meters of steel fell on the antenna.Source: Arecibo Observatory / Outreach

Repair teams have already noticed broken signs on two of the other major cables. If the NSF has not yet calculated how much damage it will need, the observatory estimates it will cost more than $ 12 million.

UCF said in a statement that it has “begun installing a tooling system to monitor the condition of the structure, which will help reduce the risk to our repair teams.”

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