Nepal | December 02, 2020

On brink of collapse, famed Puerto Rico space telescope to close down

Reuters
Share Now:

WASHINGTON: The US National Science Foundation on Thursday announced it will close down the massive space telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, ending 57 years of astronomical discoveries after suffering two destructive mishaps in recent months.

Operations at the observatory, one of the largest in the world, were halted in August when one of its supportive cables slipped loose from its socket, falling and gashing a 100-foot-long (30 meters) hole in its 1,000-foot wide reflector dish.

The Arecibo Observatory space telescope, which was damaged in August and in November from broken cables which tore holes in the structure, is seen in Arecibo, Puerto Rico November 7, 2020. Photo: UCF/Handout via Reuters

Another cable then broke earlier this month, tearing a new hole in the dish and damaging nearby cables as engineers scrambled to devise a plan to preserve the crippled structure.

“NSF has concluded that this recent damage to the 305-meter telescope cannot be addressed without risking the lives and safety of work crews and staff,” Sean Jones, assistant director of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at NSF, said on Thursday.

“NSF has decided to begin the process of planning for a controlled decommissioning of the 305-meter telescope,” Jones said.

Engineers have not yet determined the cause of the initial cable’s failure, an NSF spokesperson said.

The observatory’s vast reflector dish and a 900-ton structure hanging 450 feet above it, nestled in the humid forests of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, had been used by scientists and astronomers around the world for decades to analyze distant planets, find potentially hazardous asteroids and hunt for signatures of extraterrestrial life.

The telescope was instrumental in detecting the near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 1999, which laid the groundwork for NASA to send a robotic probe there to collect and eventually return its first asteroid dirt sample some two decades later.

An engineering firm hired by the University of Central Florida, which manages the observatory for NSF under a five-year $20 million agreement, concluded in a report to the university last week “that if an additional main cable fails, a catastrophic collapse of the entire structure will soon follow.”

Citing safety concerns, the firm ruled out efforts to repair the observatory and recommended a controlled demolition.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Nepal COVID-19 Update: 1304 new cases, 2073 recoveries, 21 fatalities recorded on Tuesday

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Health Ministry, in its regular press briefing, shared the latest updates on coronavirus contagion from across the country, and government’s response to the health crisis. READ ALSO: 530 of 1304 cases reported today from Kathmandu valley Till date, 1,746,330 tests throu Read More...

Absconding murder accused beaten up by locals in Rautahat, arrested

RAUTAHAT: A murder accused who had been absconding for eight months was arrested in Rautahat district on Monday night. Police identified the arrestee as Tej Narayan Das (45) of Katahariya Municipality-1 in Rautahat district. Das was reportedly on the run after he beat Sudeep Yadav to death Read More...

Nepalgunj Airport

Nepalgunj airport to be developed as hub airport: Minister Bhattarai

NEPALGUNJ: Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai today stressed for developing the Nepalgunj Airport as one of the hub airports in the country. While inaugurating the extended airport apron here today, Minister Bhattarai said that the Nepalgunj and Biratnagar airports Read More...

Jones seals progress for depleted Liverpool with win over Ajax

LIVERPOOL: Teenager Curtis Jones grabbed a 58th-minute winner as an injury-hit Liverpool qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Ajax Amsterdam at Anfield on Tuesday. The victory ensured top spot in Group D for Juergen Klopp's side with 12 points after riv Read More...

Ministry of Home Affairs

Bar on strike in delivery of essential services

KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 1 The Government of Nepal has imposed a ban on strike or bandh in production, supply, sale and distribution of 25 essential goods and services amid the COVID pandemic. As per a notice published by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Nepal Gazette yesterday, the ban was imposed Read More...

Porto join Manchester City in advancing in Champions League

PORTO: FC Porto joined Manchester City in advancing to the next phase of the Champions League after the two played out a goalless draw in their Group C clash on Tuesday. The point, combined with defeat for Olympiakos in France, was enough to ensure Porto finished second while City, wh Read More...

Cops accused of opening fire called for interrogation

RAUTAHAT, DECEMBER 1 Two policemen, who were accused of opening fire in Bardibas of Mahottari have been called to the district police office in Jaleshwor for interrogation. Police had fired dozens of tear gas shells and bullets to control a demonstration of angry locals who were protesting aga Read More...

Majority prevails in NCP Sectt

KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 1 Majority members' will prevailed today in the Secretariat meeting of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), as Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was forced to agree to discuss the proposal of party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, although the PM wanted Dahal to withdraw his proposa Read More...