The world’s largest radio telescope – on the verge of destruction

At the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, cables continue to break. The infrastructure of the largest radio telescope on the planet is on the verge of complete collapse.

In 3 months, two major breakdowns of the cable system occurred at the site. Loss of power puts the giant telescope on the verge of destruction. The observatory plans to begin repairing the telescope next month, but is still awaiting funding.

The telescope consists of a fixed reflective plate 305 meters wide and overhanging receiver platform weighing 900 tons. The platform is suspended on massive steel cables that can withstand 1.2 million pounds. However, after the auxiliary cable slipped out of the socket in August, the primary cable later succumbed to additional stress and broke and fell on the reflector plate below, causing further damage.

The Arecibo Observatory was built in the 1960s and has long needed to be upgraded. At the same time the object has survived hurricanes, tropical storms and earthquakes, but some scientists are afraid that this last failure could cause its collapse. Scott Ransom, an astronomer at the North American Nano-Hertz Observatory of Gravitational Waves, says the facility could face a cascading catastrophic failure.