Why the largest telescope looking for aliens will be demolished

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The US will close the famous Arecibo space telescope in the jungles of Puerto Rico. The observatory played a key role in exploring the space – and in making several films – but two accidents made the 305-meter-wide instrument unsafe.

A huge American space telescope located deep in the jungles of Puerto Rico will be closed after suffering two serious accidents in recent months, ending 57 years of astronomical discoveries.

Operations at the Arecibo Observatory, one of the largest in the world, were halted in August, when one of its support cables slipped out of the socket, falling and making a 30-meter hole in the device. Then another cable broke earlier this month, further damaging the telescope.

The accidents of the famous telescope as a setting for the James Bond film “GoldenEye” and “Contact” with Jodie Foster, led the US National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent government agency, to decide to close it.

“NSF has concluded that this recent damage to the Arecibo space telescope cannot be resolved without risking the lives and safety of crews and personnel,” said Sean Jones, deputy director of NSF’s Department of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. .

“NSF has decided to begin planning for a controlled decommissioning of this telescope,” Jones said.

Engineers have not yet determined the exact cause of the initial cable failure, according to an NSF spokesman.

The vast reflective “plate” of this telescope and an 816-ton structure hanging 137 meters above it, located in Puerto Rico’s rainforests, has been used by scientists and astronomers around the world for decades to analyze planets. find potentially dangerous asteroids and hunt down any signs of extraterrestrial life.

The telescope played a key role in detecting the near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 1999, which laid the groundwork for NASA to send a robotic probe there to collect and eventually return the first asteroid sample two decades later. .

An engineering firm hired by the University of Central Florida, which manages the $ 20 million five-year NSF observatory, concluded in a report to the university last week that “if a main cable fails, , a catastrophic collapse of the whole structure will soon follow “.

Thus, citing safety concerns, the company ruled out efforts to repair the observatory and recommended a controlled demolition of it.

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