The main receiver disc is among the world’s largest single-disc radio telescopes. The reflective disc is 1,000 feet in diameter, 167 feet deep, and covers about 20 acres. Photo: UCF
A second cable breaks on the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, causing more damage to the reflective disc below. The asteroid hunting telescope has been shut down since August.
The second cable broke on Friday, causing additional damage to the disc and other support cables.
Engineers are still investigating the first crash, where a main cable slipped out of the outlet in August, causing a support structure to crash into the giant disk below.
The failed second cable is attached to the same support structure – leading observatory managers to think that an increase in stress from the first cable leads to the second fault.
“This is definitely not what we want to see, but it’s important that no one gets hurt,” said Francisco Cordova, the observatory director. “We took a thorough consideration in the assessment and prioritized safety in planning the repair that is supposed to start on Tuesday. Now this. There are many uncertainties until we can stabilize the structure. It has our full attention. We are assessing the situation with our experts and hope to have more to share soon.
The team will now focus on relieving stress in existing cables and installing temporary brackets. The University of Central Florida, which partially operates the observatory, requested additional funding from the National Science Foundation to repair the damage caused by the first crash.
It’s not clear how much extra money or time it will take to get the online observatory back.
The Arecibo Observatory is home to one of the most powerful telescopes on the planet, conducting research in atmospheric science, planetary science, radio astronomy, and radar astronomy.
UCF manages the facility under a partnership agreement with Universidad Ana G. Méndez and Yang Enterprises Inc. for NSF.