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TrekMD

The Arecibo Observatory is being demolished

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I am saddened by this as this is in my hometown in Puerto Rico.  I do understand the reasons, though.  I'm glad I got to visit this place more than once, even flew over it and got to see each of the main support towers up close!  This observatory made the very first map of the surface of Venus!  

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One of astronomy’s most renowned telescopes—the 305-metre-wide radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico—is permanently closing. Engineers cannot find a safe way to repair it after two cables supporting the structure suddenly and catastrophically broke, one in August and one in early November.

It is the end of one of the most iconic and scientifically productive telescopes in the history of astronomy—and scientists are mourning its loss.

“I don’t know what to say,” says Robert Kerr, a former director of the observatory. “It’s just unbelievable.”

“I am totally devastated,” says Abel Mendéz, an astrobiologist at the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo who uses the observatory.

The Arecibo telescope, which was built in 1963, was the world’s largest radio telescope for decades and has historical and modern importance in astronomy. It was the site from which astronomers sent an interstellar radio message in 1974, in case any extraterrestrials might hear it, and where the first known extrasolar planet was discovered, in 1992. It has also done pioneering work in detecting near-Earth asteroids, observing the puzzling celestial blasts known as fast radio bursts, and studying many other phenomena. All of those lines of investigation are now shut down for good, although limited science continues at some smaller facilities at the Arecibo site.

Read more at: Scientific American

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14 minutes ago, HDN said:

I’m placing my bets on @CrossBow!

Definitely!  Vegas would favor him for sure.

Truth be told, I actually worked in a steel mill for a long time.  Producing those steel cables is a fascinating thing to see and be involved in.  Those particular cables have been through years and years of heat, wet rains, strong winds, etc.  In the end, it's a matter of cost.  Just coming up with a plan to replace the cables without destroying the structure would be monumental.  And these types of scientific structures are always starved for budget.  It's a true shame. 

Sadly, a lot of the roads and bridges in the USA are going to face this same type of failure in the coming years.  We've gone too long with delaying maintenance and cutting budgets, and the population (and traffic) has increased so much.  I'm hopeful our infrastructure will get some much needed attention going forward. 

 

 

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You guys, I hope you don't mind me sharing this.  But I think you may enjoy it.  It's a trophy given to me a long time ago for assisting in building a new mill.  It's a 3" per side cube of steel (Jaguar cart for scale).  Would you believe this thing weighs over 20 pounds?!? 

steel trophy 002.JPG

Edited by RickR

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10 hours ago, HDN said:

I’m placing my bets on @CrossBow!

That would be outside my skillset I'm afraid. I too was pretty saddened to hear of this yesterday. I remembered the concerns they had about the sub cable breaking back in August and wasn't even aware that one of the primaries had also snapped recently! When I hear of the safety concerns required to try and repair it etc. I wonder, why they didn't routinely replace out the cables one by one over time? That is what they do with radio antennas here where I live. 

But then I really think about it and it makes sense. It all comes down to money and rather large amount required to maintain something like this. Fact is those who decide where that money goes and needs to be invested, likely look upon this and go 'It is 60 years old, how much do we really want to invest in this?' and then pass it over. Or in a similar fashion they look at the structure over time and determine, 'yeah that should probably be replaced but we haven't the funds right now to pay for a proper inspection to even determine what needs to be done. We will have to deal with it when the time comes...'

Now that the time has come, its time...has come.

I wonder if they will actually disassemble the facility or just let the jungle take it back over time? I mean, if it is too dangerous and costly to repair it, then how would it be any less expensive or more safe to disassemble it properly?

 

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9 hours ago, socrates63 said:

😮 3 inch cube of steel weighs 20 pounds?! That’s very cool, Rick. What is OSM?

It was a steel company that was based in Portland and had mills in several parts of N. America.  It's since been renamed. 

I think that's the thing that a lot of people don't really understand.  Steel is DENSE.  It weighs a lot.  Those cables on that dish are incredibly heavy.  And manufacturing them is not easy or cheap.  We used to joke that you don't wear a hardhat in the mill for protection, you wear it so they can find your remains (I know, it's not funny, but it is an effective reminder to be safe!)

There used to be testing samples for armor at my work, and it was a gigantic bullet (maybe 2.5" long) barely piercing a 3" heat-treated steel block.  One of the coolest things I ever saw.  The tip of the bullet is completely unmarked and undamaged, and the steel around it looks like torn paper.  But that's a passing test--the bullet did not pass through all the way. 

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8 hours ago, RickR said:

I learned about this earlier today.  Very unfortunate.  For anyone who may have witnessed this happening, it had to be a scary sight.

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12 hours ago, TrekMD said:

I learned about this earlier today.  Very unfortunate.  For anyone who may have witnessed this happening, it had to be a scary sight.

I believe I read somewhere that it happened at night and there aren't many that actually live that close to it. But again had read that some who did live in the area did hear it crash and apparently it actually registered on seismographs in the area as well when it collapsed. 

I guess they weren't kidding that it wasn't safe to repair it?! Have they confirmed whether another cable snapped from tower 4 that causes this yet? I has seen a YT vid yesterday from Scott Manly where it stated it was a chain reaction caused by a 3rd cable breaking overnight. 

This also answers the question I had about how they were planning to dismantle it safely if it wasn't safe enough to repair? Looks like time and physics answered that question for us. 

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