Arecibo Telescope Awarded $8 Million for Possible Reconstruction

Could this initial funding inspire potential U.S. sponsors to donate the rest?
Loukia Papadopoulos

On November 20 of 2020, we reported that the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico was set to be decommissioned as the National Science Foundation (NSF), which oversees Arecibo, estimated that it could not be fixed without risking human life. The decision would bring an end to a tool responsible for 57 years of astronomical discoveries.


New hopes

Now, new hopes have surfaced for the telescope as Puerto Rico has now committed $8 million to the device, as reported by Engadget. The amount is likely not enough to fix the telescope but it could be enough to delay its decommission.

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez signed an executive order approving the $8 million amount stating that Arecibo's reconstruction is important as a matter of “public policy.” This initial commitment may even inspire potential sponsors in the U.S. to donate the rest of the amount required to completely restore the telescope.

A tough decision

The difficult decision to decommission the telescope came after the two major cables broke resulting in significant damage to the observatory. Engineers of the University of Central Florida (UCF) found that even the other cables showed signs of degradation, fueling concerns that the platform could fall and crash through the dish.

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At the time, the NSF stated that "the telescope structure is in danger of a catastrophic failure and its cables may no longer be capable of carrying the loads they were designed to support. Furthermore, several assessments stated that any attempts at repairs could put workers in potentially life-threatening danger." The question that comes next is if money can change these circumstances?

Can enough funding make it safe to repair the telescope or is it still too dangerous? In a statement to Engadget, the NSF announced that "the observatory is not closing. Research involving archived data from the 1,000-foot (305-meter) telescope will continue and NSF is looking for ways to restore operations with the observatory’s other infrastructure as soon as possible, including the 39-foot (12-meter) telescope and LIDAR facilities." It looks like there is hope for Arecibo after all.

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