The world-famous Arecibo Observatory of Puerto, Rico, is going to be destroyed soon. First of all, what is Arecibo Observatory, and why it is so much important? Let’s get into it:
It is a radio telescope that is a part of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Centre(NAIC). It was primarily used for radio astronomy, radar astronomy, atmospheric science, and also for the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.
The first time it was used in 1974 to send a message. The message carries necessary information about humanity and earth to a globular star cluster. Frank Drake, with the help of Carl Sagan, prepares the content of the message.
What is the problem with Arecibo Observatory is?
This observatory has served more than a half-century in supporting scientific work. It has also been a part of many Hollywood movies.
The observatory owner, the US National Science Foundation(NSF), announced on November 19 that they would soon begin the demolition process. The failure of two major cables has led to this decision.
Some engineer fears that this 900 ton suspended cable may damage the 1000 foot wide dish by coming down. It is also possible that three 300 feet tower may destroy the nearby building.
The main purpose of the decision is to save people’s lives and control the unexpected damage. NSF has mentioned that they tried to repair the Arecibo, but it is impossible without risking people’s lives. The engineers have set up an exclusive zone to bein if there is any sudden danger.
Assessment of the Situation
During a press conference, Sean Jones, the assistant director for the mathematical and physical sciences directorate at NSF, said, “This decision is not an easy one for NSF to make, but people’s safety is our number one priority. Arecibo has been a significant tool in finding asteroids near the earth’s orbit and finding the object that may act as a threat to the planet.”
In 2017 during Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has caused huge damage to the Arecibo, and which required repairing cost of around 14.3 million dollars. When engineers were repairing the cable, the second cable also fell, attached to the same tower.
After examing the situation, engineers found that other cables, each of weight around 15000 pounds, could not be trusted upon. These cables have survived many earthquakes, storms, heavy moisture, etc. Because of that, they could not take the load they were designed for.
Ralph Gaume is the director of the Division of Astronomical Sciences at NSF. He says that the NSF does not have any fully formed plan for the demolition of the structure. But they will soon have a proper plan in the coming week. He also says that they may use explosives for the demolition of some structures.
Cost of Destruction and other observations
NSF has estimated the total cost of deconstructing in between 10.6 million dollars to 18.7 million dollars. “Our engineers were unable to tell us when the structure will collapse on its own, and so we are working against the clock,” Gaume says. He adds, “certainly some subset of the experiment of Arecibo could, transfer to other centers and, in particular, to other NSF centers.”
But the observatory’s huge dimensions and specialized hardware make it a one-of-a-kind resource. There is simply no other option available than Arecibo for many applications in astronomy and planetary science research.
Why is it so important?
Jill Tarter, a researcher at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California., had a talk with Scientific American before the NSF’s decision. At that time, she tells Arecibo as one of the essential resources, considering that even today, it still has the most potent radar transmitter in the world.
“Some of the research is possible on other centers,” Tarter added. Still, Arecibo’s sensitivity is necessary for some of the projects like Nano Gravitation, which directly detect and study nanohertz-frequency gravitational waves.
Like many researchers who have used Arecibo, Werthimer, a radio astronomer and SETI researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, defends the observatory as the only source of complex discoveries that has played a crucial role in piecing together the puzzle of humankind’s place in the universe.
Through funding from NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) Observations Program, Arecibo has also served as one of the globe’s major assets in studying potentially hazardous NEOs that could strike Earth. Thanks to Arecibo’s powerful radar transmitter, researchers have fully characterized the precise orbits, sizes, and shapes of many NEOs during the space rocks’ close encounters with our planet.
Here we can see how this Arecibo Observatory is so much important for humankind, and it has helped in some research and discoveries. NSF has put all his effort into repairing this Arecibo, but it is impossible for them. So finally they have to decide to demolish it to save the life of peoples.