Operating since 1963, the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico is in danger of seeing its satellite dish collapse due to the deterioration of the giant steel cables that support it, causing an important part of the history of astronomy to collapse.
“As someone who depends on Arecibo to do science, I am afraid. It is a very worrying situation. There is a possibility of catastrophic cascade failure, ”astronomer Scott Ransom of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves told the Associated Press (AP) news agency.
In August, an auxiliary cable, when it broke, opened a 30 meter hole in the gigantic plate, damaged eight panels in the Gregorian Dome (a structure located above the antenna), in addition to twisting the platform used to access the dome (you can see the hole in the image above, taken from a satellite).
Now, one of the 12 main steel cables that hold the satellite dish 307 meters above the ground, designed to support 544 tons, has broken under 283 thousand kilos. It is not yet known what caused the rupture.
“Each of the remaining cables in the structure is now supporting more weight than before, increasing the chances of another cable breaking, which would likely result in the collapse of the entire structure,” the Central University of Florida (UCF) said in a statement, responsible for the observatory.