Arecibo Telescope Will Be Dismantled Before it Collapses

For most of the last 57 years, the Arecibo radio telescope was the largest telescope in the world. Two cable breaks over the past few months. The telescope will be dismantled before it collapses. The 900-ton instrument platform is suspended 137 meters above the 305-meter wide dish.

Arecibo Had Breakthrough Discoveries of Pulsars and Other Achievements

The Telescope was used to search for aliens by trying to detect radio signals from other solar systems. It was also used to look at the universe in the radio spectrum.

On April 7, 1964, Gordon Pettengill’s team used it to determine that the rotation period of Mercury was not 88 days, as formerly thought, but only 59 days.
In 1968, the discovery of the periodicity of the Crab Pulsar (33 milliseconds) by Lovelace and others provided the first solid evidence that neutron stars exist.
In 1974, Hulse and Taylor discovered the first binary pulsar PSR B1913+16. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this.
In 1982, the first-millisecond pulsar, PSR B1937+21, was discovered by Donald C. Backer, Shrinivas Kulkarni, Carl Heiles, Michael Davis, and Miller Goss. This object spins 642 times per second and, until the discovery of PSR J1748-2446ad in 2005, was identified as the fastest-spinning pulsar.

In August 1989, the observatory directly imaged an asteroid for the first time in history: 4769 Castalia. The following year, Polish astronomer Aleksander Wolszczan made the discovery of pulsar PSR B1257+12, which later led him to discover its three orbiting planets. These were the first extrasolar planets discovered. In 1994, John Harmon used the Arecibo Radio Telescope to map the distribution of ice in the polar regions of Mercury.

In January 2008, detection of prebiotic molecules methanimine and hydrogen cyanide were reported from the observatory’s radio spectroscopy measurements of the distant starburst galaxy Arp 220.

From January 2010 to February 2011, American astronomers Matthew Route and Aleksander Wolszczan detected bursts of radio emission from the T6.5 brown dwarf 2MASS J10475385+2124234. This was the first time that radio emission had been detected from a T dwarf, which has methane absorption lines in its atmosphere. It is also the coolest brown dwarf (at a temperature of ~900K) from which radio emission has been observed. The highly polarized and highly energetic radio bursts indicated that the object has a >1.7 kG-strength magnetic field and magnetic activity similar to both the planet Jupiter and the Sun.

FAST Telescope

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) became fully operational in January 2020.

FAST versus Arecibo

SOURCES- Science Mag
Written By Brian Wang,

17 thoughts on “Arecibo Telescope Will Be Dismantled Before it Collapses”

  1. Arecibo was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, breaking a main cable and trashing the dish, and lots of other damage. The observatory was anyway planned at being decommissioned in 2023, so it wasn't deemed cost effective to pour money into it.

  2. As a structural engineer, you have to provide support and shoring to the entire load path and manage the integrity of all associated components – one cannot simply switch out the cable. All temporary supports would need to be founded – and that jungle looks inaccessible. Cables often (read: if ever) fail from poor protection from weathering – that being said, I don't do bridges.

  3. Is the far side of the moon better than the near side for *anything* other than astronomy? Maybe reserving the farside for astronomy will be no loss for anything else we want to do on the moon.

  4. It seems odd to me that any weakened, or missing cables are not replaced. I assume the telescopes optics are still more or less good. Maybe this is an excuse to stop maintaining the installation.

  5. I think they will be used. But mostly for backbone high bandwidth point to point networks (satellite to satellite or long distance planet to planet).

    Current wide area radiofrequency technologies are just too convenient and developed to not be used just for the sake of an experiment.

    And people on the Moon will certainly want to have universal data access, for themselves and their machines.

  6. Might lasers be better for communications above the earth's atmosphere? Maybe all communication to the far side of the moon can be done with lasers, so radio astronomy can be done there.

  7. The obvious question is, are they dismantling the center platform with the intent to reuse parts/sensors for a rebuilt dish and tower system? If the parts are reusable then that at least means rebuilding Arecibo becomes possible at reduced cost. If not, or someone gets trigger happy and destructively disassembles the thing, then rebuilding comes at full cost, which likely means it won't happen.

    With Arecibo out of action, FAST becomes the only major deep space monitoring radar facility for imaging asteroids, outside of what the NASA DSN dishes can do at their smaller sizes. If those space mining folks are serious, that also means they are leaving asteroid characterization and tracking to the chinese, which has strategic commercial implications. The chinese might not announce the more strategically interesting results from FAST if there is a commercial angle, unlike NASA which basically publishes everything.


    turns out FAST is receive only, with no radar facility? So probably the Green Bank radiotelescope is probably the last remaining one with transmit capability, at 100m? DSN I think has more than one 70m.

  8. look mate Dan, Harlan Smith pointed out the fact that he has no idea with him replying to some higher up professional saying the complete opposite to your comment. No hate mate but get your facts before you start commenting
    enjoy reading
    love Hamo Clarqe

  9. Yeah, if a radio telescope lasts 57 years, then the dark side of the moon won't stay dark for more than a fraction of that.

  10. Indeed. Arecibo had been budgetarily neglected on the last years, and now everyone acts surprised because it rusted and broke down.

  11. Soon the far side of the Moon won't be much better in that regard, with the flood of communication satellites humans might soon put around the Moon, to give it high speed data access across the surface.

  12. Harlan Smith pointed out that the far side of the Moon is the best place in the solar system for radio scopes, as everywhere else close is flooded with Earth signals. Other than that, we need AI to study the complex price/tech situation for such things. A new World!

  13. In the long run, telescopes on Earth have the days counted. Cheaper space launches will make easier to put Hubble-like scopes in space, with ground based ones on the Moon later.

    But I admit it will take a while before anyone attempts to build one on the Moon.

    Building a new Arecibo-like radiotelescope on Earth would also be a long project, though. So it may start working when there are much better ways to put things in space. But given the slowness of space projects, probably they could still get a few decades of service out of it.

    The main obstacle is funding. There may be strong arguments against such a big project nowadays, specially if smaller ones could do the same.

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