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The Arecibo Observatory (a.k.a. The GoldenEye Cradle) is closing for good.


RH
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Member · Posted

It's a sad story, but it looks like "the cradle" is closing for good.  This doesn't appear to be so much a budget issue or a lack of support for science.  Apparently, a couple of support cables have snapped and engineers cannot think of a safe way to repair it.  In fact, they aren't even sure how to safely dismantle it and, as such, the whole observatory is simply closing.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/legendary-arecibo-telescope-will-close-forever-and-scientists-are-reeling/

Wide aerial shot showing a hole in the main collecting dish of the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope.

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6 minutes ago, RH said:

It's a sad story, but it looks like "the cradle" is closing for good.  This doesn't appear to be so much a budget issue or a lack of support for science.  Apparently, a couple of support cables have snapped and engineers cannot think of a safe way to repair it.  In fact, they aren't even sure how to safely dismantle it and, as such, the whole observatory is simply closing.

Seems hard to believe that they would have build something of that size and scope without clearly documented plans, in advance, of how to repair it or dismantle it.

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10 minutes ago, arch_8ngel said:

Seems hard to believe that they would have build something of that size and scope without clearly documented plans, in advance, of how to repair it or dismantle it.

Though that does make sense, scientists and engineers can't account for everything.  There had also been an earthquake that had done damage and, frankly, it might have been a problem compound from that.  Keep in mind, this facility is rather old.  Our engineering is much more sophisticated than it was in the mid-70s when it was built.

I think this observatory has had pretty good funding over the years.  I don't really think it fell into disrepair due to negligence, other than someone not going over the maintenance plan every 10 years with a fine tooth comb and re-evaluating the whole thing.

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My understanding, from the articles I read yesterday, is that it's simply too dangerous to send people in to dismantle it.  So, it will be left to collapse on its own - which it is expected to do since the second cable broke.

Hopefully in a few years we can replace it or build another instrument in its place.  The Arecibo area is considered a scientific hub and the people there don't want to lose that.  It's upsetting but we can rebuild!

Edited by glazball
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Just now, glazball said:

My understanding, from the articles I read yesterday, is that it's simply too dangerous to send people in to dismantle it.  So, it will be left to collapse on it's own - which it is expected to do since the second cable broke.

Hopefully in a few years we can replace it or build another instrument in its place.  The Arecibo area is considered a scientific hub and the people there don't want to lose that.  It's upsetting but we can rebuild!

Yeah, I didn't consider this a "good thing" but the silver lining is that when stuff like this has to be abandoned, but it's important, it likely means that something better might come along.  Let's hope that after 50 years, it's replacement can be many magnitudes better and maybe even cheaper to build and operate.

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1 hour ago, RH said:

Though that does make sense, scientists and engineers can't account for everything.  There had also been an earthquake that had done damage and, frankly, it might have been a problem compound from that.  Keep in mind, this facility is rather old.  Our engineering is much more sophisticated than it was in the mid-70s when it was built.

I think this observatory has had pretty good funding over the years.  I don't really think it fell into disrepair due to negligence, other than someone not going over the maintenance plan every 10 years with a fine tooth comb and re-evaluating the whole thing.

Looked it up out of curiosity -- it was built from 1960-1963 -- meaning it was designed in the 50's.

So I suppose that leaves me less surprised that they didn't think far enough ahead about how to replace major elements safely.

Edited by arch_8ngel
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This is my hometown.  Very sad to see this is going to happen.  I am thankful that I got to visit it more than once and even got to fly over it and visit the towers that hold the core part in place.  It really is an impressive thing to see.   I do understand why they have to do it, though. 

Edited by TrekMD
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  • 2 weeks later...

Sometimes we need to take a step back to make two steps forward.

This has the scientific community in a state of shock, and I'm sure it will drive them to seek funding for a replacement. Maybe in a different place, maybe in a different country all together, but I'm sure if good science can be acquired from a project such as this then a replacement will be made eventually.

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Just now, ThePhleo said:

Sometimes we need to take a step back to make two steps forward.

This has the scientific community in a state of shock, and I'm sure it will drive them to seek funding for a replacement. Maybe in a different place, maybe in a different country all together, but I'm sure if good science can be acquired from a project such as this then a replacement will be made eventually.

As a matter of self-interest, most of us here should probably want it to stay in the USA or a US territory.

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