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Astronomy: Second cable from Arecibo radio telescope broken

Last updated on March 9, 2021

One of the main carrier cables of the second largest radio telescope in the world has burst due to overload. A team of experts is now to rescue Arecibo.


In addition to the damage from August, in the picture, there are said to be more now.
(Picture: University of Central Florida)

On November 6, 2020, a second steel cable burst at the Arecibo radio telescope, holding the gondola of the radio receiver above the 300-meter dish. It is probably a consequence of a damage from August, when one of the stabilizing cables slipped out of its anchorage and knocked a 30 meter long hole into the dish of the second largest radio telescope in the world. Fortunately, no one was injured in the second accident either.

A team of experts for repairs to the radio telescope happens to be already on site. The team should have started emergency repairs of the damage from August this week. Plans for this have since been drawn up, as well as plans for subsequent permanent repairs. This task will now be considerably more difficult and larger. Nevertheless, the director of Arecibo in a press release decided to make the radio telescope operational again, although “this is certainly not what we wanted to see.

New cables are already ordered

This time it should be one of the carrier cables of the receiver nacelle, which probably burst due to overload caused by the missing stabilizing cable. This also caused further damage to the radio dish and other steel cables are said to be affected as well. Since then it is tried to reduce the voltage of the remaining cables as far as possible to avoid further damage.

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A complete assessment of the damage is not yet available. But both now missing cables were attached to the same carrier tower and the burst carrier cable had been under observation with cameras and drones before because it showed some damage and burst steel wires. An order for two steel cables had already been placed before the new incident, their delivery is now to be accelerated.