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Iconic Arecibo Observatory, too unsafe to repair, faces demolition

19 Nov 2020, 21:34 UTC
Iconic Arecibo Observatory, too unsafe to repair, faces demolition
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The Arecibo Observatory as seen in a file photo taken before the failure of two cables helping support the suspended receiver platform. Engineers say the structure is too unstable to safely repair. Image: University of Central Florida
The iconic Arecibo Observatory has made its final observations.
Following the failure of a second cable helping support the radio telescope’s 900-ton instrument platform, the U.S. National Science Foundation opted to carry out a controlled demolition after engineers concluded the structure was too unstable to attempt repairs.
“After reviewing the engineering assessment, we have found no path forward that would allow us to (carry out repairs) safely,” Sean Jones, assistant director for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at the National Science Foundation, told reporters 19 November.
“We know that a delay in decision making leaves the entire facility at risk of an uncontrolled collapse, unnecessarily jeopardizing people and also the additional facilities.”
The observatory is operated for the NSF by the University of Central Florida. It is made up of a fixed 305-metre (1,000-foot) dish antenna built into a natural depression that reflects radio waves or radar beams to the receiver array suspended 137 metres (450 feet) above by cables stretching from ...

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