The collapse of the Arecibo Observatory’s plate in Puerto Rico left not only the scientific community inconsolable, but also concerned about the planet’s sudden vulnerability to the asteroid shock. Therefore, there is already a project for version 2.0 of the most iconic and important radio telescope used in planetary defense against threats from space.
The wreckage of the William E. Gordon radio telescope dish had not been picked up when not only the observatory’s scientific team but the Arecibo astronomical community began to argue, around the world, about the future of the one who, so far, has no substitute.
“When the radio telescope went down, there were statements in the media like ‘Oh, we have other systems that can replace what Arecibo is doing’, but I don’t think that’s true. It was not obsolete and will not be easily replaceable by other existing facilities and instruments. “Astrophysicist Anne Virkki, who leads the Arecibo Observatory planetary radar team, told Space.com.
In the following months, this proved to be true: planetary defense moved to NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Center; however, while Arecibo was a facility focused on the surveillance and tracking of asteroids, the California observatory is part of the so-called Deep Space Network, which manages the data sent by spacecraft scattered throughout the solar system (in addition to being used for military purposes).
“Goldstone management will not be as flexible with scheduling observations of recently discovered targets as Arecibo has always been. If you are unable to capture these objects when they are in the observation window, you will miss the opportunity very quickly, which means working with greater uncertainty about asteroid orbits. This could be the difference between a space rock hitting Earth and knowing that it will not happen, ”said Vikki.
Arecibo had been receiving less and less money for repairs and improvements for years. Even so, he remained the only one capable of keeping the planetary surveillance up to date and tracking Earth. the threatening approach of asteroids, especially the massive and most damaging ones to the planet.