Arecibo Radio Telescope damage; Puerto Rico [has collapsed]

A cable snapped, causing this cornerstone of radio astronomy and SETI to go off-line due to structural damage.

That’s bad, although not as bad as when the Green Bank Radio Telescope completely collapsed. That got rebuilt but only because there was an influential senator (Robert Byrd) from WV.

But I do question somewhat the characterisation of Arecibo as a “cornerstone of radio astronomy”. Yes, it’s big, but it has significant limitations in where it can aim that keep it from being as important as that. There’s several multiple dish radio telescopes that seem more productive.

Since this happened, an additional cable has snapped and other cables are showing signs of damage. One of the big issues is that the over the years, the cables’ breaking limit has reduced to 60% of original capacity.

At this point, it’s been determined that the telescope can’t be safely repaired so they’re going to demolish it.

Smithsonian article on the topic.

YouTube video from Scott Manley:

This is the telescope that James Bond and Alec Trevelyan fought on in the movie GoldenEye.

Demolishing it is going to be almost as difficult as repairing it would be. It has a 900 ton platform suspended 150 meters in the air by 18 cables from the towers. Two of those cables are damaged. It’s going to be a real challenge to get that thing down. It’s not like they can just lengthen those cables and drop it to the ground.

Seen in the movie Contact . It cannot be fixed from recent damage.

I wonder how much it would cost to fix it properly, and if that amount is within the range of a wealthy person like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. Perhaps the government could turn it over to a private group if they can raise the money?

They might be able to tear it down and start over. This radio telescope can be moved: .

Paul Allen donated money to astronomy research Maybe his estate still does

Arecibo hasn’t been maintained so it is probably a loss. Another example of the US slipping into third world status. Probably part of God’s or Trump’s plan.

That’s tragic. The Arecibo radio telescope is “big” not just in physical size, but in scientific importance. I hope some sort of enhanced replacement is being thought about.

the reason NASA still has manned missions is people support tax money for that even if robots are way cheaper. I would think Biden would be more likely to fund a new telescope than Trump.

It’s very sad. My understanding is that it had one big feature over other large scopes: it can transmit. And that this functionality was key to cataloging trajectories for asteroids via radar (not to mention communicating with aliens). China now has an even larger scope than Arecibo, but it cannot transmit. Other scopes are too small. I hope they can rebuild it.

That is too bad. My visit there was a highlight of a trip to Puerto Rico that I made about 10 years ago. I wonder if the museum will close too?

From the statement from the NSF it sounds like the issue isn’t cost, but safety: “several assessments stated that any attempts at repairs could put workers in potentially life-threatening danger.” It sounds like the only safe option is to tear it down and start over.

Sad. I’ve been there too, and it was awesome.

A quite high resolution satellite picture of the damage:

I assume Bloomberg ,Gates, Buffet, etc will get contacted about funding a replacement . Maybe they will chip in.

Previous thread.

And being able to transmit isn’t something that’s very difficult to build into a radio telescope. The only reason it’s not done more often is that there’s very little demand for it.

Arecibo has (had) an average transmit power of 150 kW, and a peak power of 2.5 MW. Dealing with those power levels isn’t a trivial problem no matter what the application, and a very different one from building a sensitive receiver.

Acting as a radar, Arecibo collected great imagery, like this:

Seems utterly crucial for near-Earth object tracking, if nothing else.

Can any of the ABM radars—thinking of the big floating one that IIRC, is near Kwajalein now—duplicate that specific Arecibo skillset? I thought they transmitted with ballpark same order of magnitude radiated power? IIRC, one of the Goldstone dishes is now what NASA would have to use for something like imaging X astronomical body.

How was Arecibo resolution compared to other similar radio astronomy installations? And what would the cost be to build something near its capabilities, but somewhere out of hurricane alley?