The Arecibo Radio Telescope Observatory, located in Puerto Rico, has been closed temporarily after a support cable broke and created an extended gap in the dish. Several panels have been damaged by the broken cable, which snapped before dawn a few days ago.
As the cable went through the panels, it also damaged the Gregorian Dome, which is located above the dish and houses a selection of sensitive tools that are used to scan and interpret signals from space.
No clear cause
In a recent press release, the director of the Florida Space Institute mentioned that the damaged cable would be removed, and a replacement cable with be brought in as soon as possible. According to the director of the observatory, a full team of experts is assessing the state of the observatory at this point, as the safety of the staff remains a primary concern.
Non-destructive tests are being carried out on the remaining cables in an attempt to track down the cause, which led the cable to fail. A recovery plan will also be announced soon and includes a budget and a schedule that should facilitate the re-opening of the telescope as soon as possible.
A valuable tool
The Arecibo Radio Telescope has played an important role in many discoveries since it became operational in 1963. Among the discoveries, we can count new data about pulsars and early detection of plants that are beyond the boundary of our solar system.
It played an important role during the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (also known as SETI) program. In 2016 it lost the record title for being the largest radio telescope of its town after a similar on became operational in China.
While the schedule is still in the making, it is likely that scientists will have to wait at least a few weeks before they can use the telescope again.