The Iconic Arecibo Telescope Goes Quiet After Major Damage

Early Monday early morning, a cable suspended around the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico broke and remaining a 100-foot-prolonged gash in the dish of the legendary radio telescope. The 3-inch diameter cable also induced harm to the panels of the Gregorian dome that is suspended hundreds of feet previously mentioned the dish and homes the telescope’s receivers. It is unclear what brought about the cable to break or when radio astronomers working with the telescope will be capable to resume their investigation.

“This was an auxiliary cable employed to support the bodyweight of the platform, and we are in the process of examining why it broke,” suggests Zenaida Kotala, the assistant vice president for strategic initiatives at the College of Central Florida, which manages the observatory. “We are performing with engineers to determine a approach for repairs. Our purpose is to get the facility operational as quickly as it is probable to do so properly.”

Astronomers have utilized the Arecibo radio telescope to examine the cosmos because 1963. For most of its existence, the observatory was much and away the major telescope of its kind in the world. (It was only not long ago surpassed by China’s Quick radio telescope.) Its 1,000-foot radio dish is designed into a normal despair in the bordering hills and functions like a huge ear listening for faint radio signals from galaxies considerably, far away.

“By getting greater, it’s simply more delicate,” claims Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at the nonprofit SETI Institute, a primary investigation establishment in the look for for extraterrestrial intelligence. “Just as a greater optical telescope can see fainter objects, so too can a greater radio telescope ‘see’ things that are fainter.”

The Arecibo radio telescope has been used for a broad variety of science experiments and was at the middle of a selection of firsts that have modified our being familiar with of the universe. In 1994, astronomers studying a pulsar with Arecibo found the first proof of a planet orbiting a further star. Arecibo also detected the first millisecond pulsar, a style of fast rotating star that is made use of as an astrophysical clock in the hunt for gravitational waves, and the first repeating Speedy Radio Burst, a temporary pulse of large-electrical power radiation that scientists are only starting to have an understanding of.

The historical past of the Arecibo telescope is also deeply entwined with the history of SETI. The planetary astronomer Frank Drake, who executed the initial radio SETI look for the same year that construction on Arecibo started, served as the observatory’s director for a long time. In 1976, he and Carl Sagan utilised the telescope to transmit the world’s very first interstellar message to a star program 12,000 gentle years away. It was a brief pictorial information depicting people, our DNA, and even the Arecibo dish itself. Since then, Arecibo’s SETI functions have mainly been centered on listening for ET. (Whilst in 2009 the artist Joe Davis proficiently plugged his Apple iphone into the dish and utilised it to transmit a second interstellar information.)

“We have been particularly saddened by the news out of Arecibo,” says Andrew Siemion, the director of the Berkeley SETI Research Middle. “Arecibo is a singular asset in SETI and we very a lot look ahead to its return to science operations.” For a long time, Siemion and his colleagues at Berkeley collected radio facts from Arecibo for [email protected], a distributed computing challenge that permitted any person with an internet link to support in the search for intelligent aliens. Before this year, the [email protected] challenge stopped pulling in new information from Arecibo and other radio telescopes so its researchers could target on examining the details currently collected.

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