The popular Arecibo observatory located in Puerto Rico is to be demolished; ending the reign of the famed 57-year-old telescope which scientists use to observe deep space and listen to Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). The decision to demolish the observatory was reached after two main cables fell on parts of the observatory damaging the structure, one in August and the other in early November.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) responsible for the observatory also detected that the remaining cables could also fall adding to the damage. If this happens, the scientists said, the 900-ton platform suspended over the observatory could fall on the observatory’s dish that measures about 1,000 feet in diameter. This could also affect the three surrounding towers of the facility which measure about 300 feet in height according to the scientists’ estimates.
Such an extent of damage could topple the visitors’ building or any other important buildings that surround the structure, according to the NSF. The agency also explained that there is no safe way to repair the decades-old telescope which resulted in the decision to discontinue its use and demolish it. The engineers at the facility are now saddled with the responsibility of safely demolishing the facility, the Verge reports.
Reports have it that this might be done with the use of helicopters or even explosives. The agency described the demolition as painful but necessary. The engineers who work for NSF have evacuated the facility and secured the surrounding areas against entry from unwanted personnel or other members of the public. They stated that there was a need for this because the collapsing parts of the structure could come down at any point in time.
The telescope has served scientists for the last 50 years. With it, astronomers were able to observe several events and objects in deep space including FRBs and pulsars. The scientists also used the telescope to observe the activities of asteroids that were heading towards our planet. They were also able to make investigations into the possible existence of extraterrestrial beings using the telescope. This work was done by scientists of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
The facility which was used in James Bond’s GoldenEye movie featuring Pierce Brosnan and Contact has survived Hurricanes, the latest of which is Hurricane Maria which caused damage of about $14.3 million to the facility. The main cables which fell in August and November weigh about 15,000 pounds each. The other main cables also weighing 15,000 pounds each could also fall according to the NSF engineers. The cables are decades old.
The scientists are still trying to ascertain how to bring down the facility and how much it will cost to demolish it.