One of the world’s most prominent astronomical observatories has a flaw.
On Monday, a 3-inch (76 mm) thick cable at the Arecibo Observatory broke, tearing a 100-foot (30-meter) long crack in the reflector disk of the 20-acre radio telescope in Puerto Rico.
The observatory just reopened after temporarily shutting down due to Tropical Storm Isaias when the cable, which helped support the metal platform, snapped at around 2:45 a.m. ET.
The facility is now closed again as engineers assess the damage, according to the University of Central Florida, a telescope co-operator.
It is still not clear how the cable was broken or whether the damage was related to Isaias.
Astronomers use telescopes to study dangerous asteroids as they fly over Earth, in the hope of identifying space rocks in a collusion early enough to intervene before they attack.
Scientists have also used Arecibo to look for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life. In 1974, Arecibo broadcast the strongest broadcast that Earth ever sent to communicate with potential aliens.
Then in 2016, the telescope detected the first repeated rapid radio explosions – mysterious space signals of unknown origin.
The cable crash also damaged six to eight panels in the telescope’s Gregorian Dome: the portion of its radiation focus to points in space that astronomers want to study. It also twists the platform used to reach the dome.
“We have a team of experts assessing the situation,” said Francisco Cordova, the observatory’s director, in a statement.
“Our focus is on ensuring the safety of employees, protecting facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to normal operation as soon as possible so that we can continue to support scientists. study all over the world. “
Tropical Storm Isaias passed through Puerto Rico on July 30, before it developed into a hurricane, prompting observatory operators to close the facility for several days.
They re-enabled it earlier this month to study a potentially dangerous asteroid the size of five soccer fields, which is traversing Earth at an optimal distance for the observatory to examine it.
NASA previously calculated 1 in 70,000 chances that space rocks could impact our planet between 2086 and 2101, so astronomers want to follow it more closely to calculate math is better than the chance of a collision.
But when a team at Arecibo trained the telescope at the asteroid to determine its shape and orbit, they discovered that it likely wouldn’t get close enough to Earth to pose a threat. Future.
During those observations, the telescope still performed well.
“Fortunately, the storm passed quickly without damaging the telescope or radar system, and the electrical and maintenance teams were able to activate the telescope since the storm locked in time to observe”, Sean Marshall, an observatory scientist leading the team. radar observations, said at the time.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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