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Famous SETI observatory destroyed after cable breaks

Damage to the main collecting bowl of the observatory.

Damage to the main collecting bowl of the observatory.
image:: UCF today

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is currently out of order after a thick support cable fell on the dish, causing a large cut. It’s another setback for the beloved scientific facility, which has not fully recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

On Monday, August 10, at around 2:45 p.m. local time, a three-inch-thick auxiliary cable fell on the main reflector cup of the observatory, creating a 100-foot-long scar. Reports UCF today. The cable is used to support a metal platform above the observatory. All scientific work in the Arecibo facility will be suspended until repair. The cause of the cable failure is not yet known and it does not take cost or time to correct it.

Around half a dozen panels on the Gregorian dome were also damaged when the cable fell, as was a platform used to access the dome. The Gregorian dome, which is about 150 feet above the surface of the bowl, houses one Multi-beam receiver can scan multiple points in the sky at the same time.

Francisco Cordova, director of the observatory, told UCF Today that a team of experts is assessing the situation and that the current focus is on “keeping our people safe, protecting facilities and equipment, and getting the facility back to life as soon as possible functional as much as possible so that it can continue to help scientists around the world. “

Gizmodo reached out to the Arecibo Observatory officials for more information and will update this post if we hear anything.

The Arecibo Observatory, built in 1963 with its 305 meter wide disk, is one of the most powerful radio telescopes in the world after China Spherical radio telescope with an aperture of 500 metersor FAST. In Arecibo, scientists carry out all kinds of work, from atmospheric and planetary research to radio and radar astronomy to the search for aliens Intelligence, also known as SETI. On Tuesday the official Twitter account for the SETI institute tweeted a picture of the damage with the simple caption: “We have no words.”

Abel Méndez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, said his team’s scientific observations and many others would be delayed.

“We watched Barnard’s star last week,” Méndez said in an email. “We have other stars to observe in the months that follow, including some with planets that are potentially habitable.”

The purpose of these observations is to determine the way in which red dwarf stars like Barnard’s staraffect the habitability of their planets. Méndez also planned to start a SETI project to discover it extraterrestrial techno signatures (i.e. evidence of extraterrestrial technology) that would have used both past and future observations at Arecibo. All of this now seems to be on hold.

Méndez’s observations are not time sensitive, but others are, including scans for potentially dangerous asteroids nearby.

This most recent incident occurs less than three years after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. The storm caused relatively little damage to Arecibo Observatory, but repairs have yet to be completed. The facility was also devastated fiscal uncertainty. The US National Science Foundation recently cut its annual funding from $ 8.2 million to $ 2 million, with private donors like Yang Enterprises making up the shortfall.

The future of this important facility was getting better, but its prospects are once again in jeopardy.

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