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A broken cable at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory tore a 100-foot hole in the disk of one of the largest radio telescopes in the world, interrupting the equipment until possible. can be repaired.
Arecibo’s giant reflective disc, built inside a sinkhole in northern Puerto Rico, was damaged when a 3-inch-diameter support cable unexpectedly broke before dawn Monday, according to Central University Florida, where the observatory is managed.
In one photo of the damage, several twisted plates that make up a 1,000-foot disc hung on the structure or lying on the ground below it.
When the cable falls, it also damages some of the panels on the Gregorian Dome that are hung above the disc and contain sensitive receivers for receiving signals from space.
“We have a team of experts assessing the situation,” Francisco Cordova, the observatory’s director, said in an emailed statement to NPR. “Our focus is on ensuring the safety of our employees, protecting facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to normal operation as soon as possible so we can continue to support our scientists. study around the world. “
The cause of the cable breakage is currently unknown and no repair schedule is set, the statement said.
In an email to the NPR, Raymond Lugo III, director of UCF’s Florida Space Institute, said “the removal of the damaged cable and the purchase of the cable to replace the damaged cable” is being evaluated.
“We are also working to determine the cause of this problem, including a non-destructive testing of the remaining cables,” he said, adding that after a full assessment, “we will developing a remedial plan, schedule and budget. “
Since its completion in 1963, Arecibo has played a key role in discoveries, from new insights into pulsars to discovering planets outside of our solar system. It has also appeared prominently in Extraterrestrial Intelligence Search, or SETI. The observatory is also featured in the movie Contact and the James Bond movie Yellow eyes.
This observatory held the record as the world’s largest radio telescope until 2016, when an even larger instrument with a similar design, called the Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope 5 hundred meters (FAST), to be completed in southern China. After testing, FAST officially went online last year.
In 2017, one of Arecibo’s much smaller dishes and a few plates on the main plate were damaged when Typhoon Maria level 4 hit the island.