An initial investigation into why the famous Arecibo alien hunting observatory telescope collapsed in December provides clues to those responsible for the cause of the catastrophic accident.
Forensic investigators were recently brought to the scene to examine the collapsed giant, focusing on the main and auxiliary cables that had been cut.
The teams found a manufacturing error in the auxiliary cables, as the socket was not made properly and the structure deteriorated.
One of the supporting cables slipped from its socket in August 2020, and before officials could fix it, a second cable was cut three months later, then the telescope collapsed in December.
Arecibo, which appeared in the James Bond movie Goldeneye in 1995, collapsed on December 1, 2020 when the cable carrying the 900-ton receiving platform was cut off at around 8 a.m. local time that morning, sending the massive structure over 400 feet ( 120 m) below.
The Arecibo Observatory suffered another failure in August when an additional cable broke, leading to a 100-foot (30 m) gap over the 1,000-foot (300 m) dish and damaging the receiving platform that was hanging above it.
Then a major cable failure in early November that determined the fate of the famous telescope, and officials were appointed to close it after 57 years of service.
Ramon Lugo, director of the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida and director of Arecibo, said he speculated that the telescope would collapse a few days before the event.
The observatory team is now working to reveal specific details of what led to the crash, as Space.com reported for the first time.
“Site cleanup and debris removal are already continuing. Overall, I think this is heading in the right direction. Two criminal investigations are assessing debris, one focusing on auxiliary cables and the other on main cables,” Francisco Cordova, director of the observatory, said during a panel.
And auxiliary cables, 12 in total, were added to the telescope body in the 1990s when the suspension dome was built.
One of these was the first to collapse in August when it slipped out of the socket connecting it to one of the three surrounding support towers.
“Initial investigations revealed that there was a mistake in the manufacture of these cables, and in particular, the socket was not properly made, and this led to an advanced deterioration of this specific structural element. But the final forensic investigation has not yet been completed,” Cordova said.
Another investigation is looking at the main cables, which were part of the telescope construction in the early 1960s, and one of which collapsed in November.
Engineers say this particular cable was only carrying 60 percent of the weight it should have carried. They added that debris that could be used in this search had been separated, in addition to debris in the auxiliary cables.
“Certainly, there is not one factor that contributed to this, but rather many factors that contributed to this specific failure,” Cordova said.
Although investigations are looking into the architecture of Arcebo, Cordova is aware that natural weather events may have played a role, as in 2017, Hurricane Maria penetrated Puerto Rico and tore apart parts of the telescope. And last year alone, the region was hit by more than 10,000 earthquakes.
The Arecibo Observatory is famous for discovering rotating pulsars, capturing the geological features of Mars, and helping astronomers to discover the near-Earth asteroid “Bennu”.
The giant telescope appeared in the James Bond movie GoldenEye in 1995. It was also used in programs looking for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) because its location allowed scientists to reach a third of the universe.
Since Arecibo played a major role in the major discoveries of space, the Puerto Rican government is working to restore it.
Last month, Governor Wanda Vazquez signed an executive order approving $ 8 million to help rebuild the iconic telescope. The sum is to be used for debris removal and disposal and for the design of the new telescope.
Source: Daily Mail