Archive for Arecibo

The End of Arecibo

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , on November 19, 2020 by telescoper

I’ve just heard the news that the famous (and indeed iconic) radio telescope in Puerto Rico known as the Arecibo Observatory is to be decommissioned. The facility was badly damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and it was feared it might close then, but it was saved when an agreement was reached whereby a Consortium led by the University of Central Florida took over its operations.

Unfortunately, in August 2020 an auxiliary cable broke in August and tore a 30-metre diameter hole in the reflector dish and damaged the dome above it. Then, earlier this month, one of the telescope’s main steel cables snapped, causing further damage. It has now been decided that it will be too dangerous and too expensive to repair the telescope. It is to be decommissioned and then dismantled entirely. Presumably the site will be returned to the state it was in before the telescope was built.

This will be sad news for the people who work at Arecibo Observatory and for the local economy in Puerto Rico not to mention the many astronomers who have used the facility over the years. For a time it was the largest radio telescope in the world, its 1000ft diameter dish enabling it to achieve a resolution of about 3.5 arc minutes at 21cm. Even before the Hurricane struck, however, Arecibo had been struggling to find the funds necessary to maintain its operations. Now, almost 60 years after it was built, that struggle is over.