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1 Month After Accident, Arecibo Observatory Leaders Still Searching For Answers

The main collecting dish is among the world’s largest single-dish radio telescopes. The reflective dish is 1,000 feet in diameter, 167 feet deep, and covers an area of about 20 acres. Photo: UCF

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It’s been almost a month since a snapped cable damaged the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Work continues to diagnose the cause and bring the dish back online. 

After a cable snapped last month, a metal platform crashed into the dish leaving a 100 foot gash on the nearly 12-hundred foot wide reflector.

Observatory leadership say the cause is still unknown. The plan is to remove and examine a portion of the snapped cable and a socket that is linked to the accident. But before they can do that, the team needs to conduct a safety analysis — including computer modeling.

“We know the process is taking a long time and we are eager to begin repairs,” said Arecibo Observatory Director Francisco Cordova. “However, this is a big and complex facility, so it is taking some time to ensure we are doing things right. We have to be sure we are taking all factors into consideration before moving forward with putting people on the telescope to remove those pieces. Once those are in hand, we expect the timeline to pick up the pace.”

Arecibo’s team is working with more than 40 experts including NASA and Kennedy Space Center personnel to complete the assessment.

It’s unclear just how much repairs will cost and how long they will take to complete. The observatory is supported by the National Science Foundation and UCF receives funding to manage it.

Arecibo supports astronomers worldwide and is tasked with tracking potentially harmful asteroids near Earth.


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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. He also helps produce WMFE's public affairs show "Intersection," working with host ... Read Full Bio »

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