Radio telescope from the James Bond movie damaged. Until recently, it was the largest radio telescope in the world

Until recently, the largest single-cell radio telescope on Earth, located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, was seriously damaged yesterday after one of the metal ropes supporting the metal platform above the telescope broke.

A metal cable of three inches in diameter, supporting the platform with the instruments in place, hanging over the bowl itself, falling on it, created a gap, almost 40 meters long. 6-8 panels of the dome were damaged and the platform through which one could enter its interior was damaged. It is not known yet what led to the rope breaking.

Broken cable responsible for damage to the Arecibo radio telescope

The radio telescope has just returned to work and has started observing a potentially dangerous asteroid about 200 m in diameter. The earlier interruption was due to the tropical storm Isaias, which struck Puerto Rico on July 30 and turned into a hurricane.

A team of experts is already on site to assess the damage. Our goal is, first of all, to ensure the safety of personnel, protect equipment and equipment, and then restore the observatory to full working order so that it can return to collecting valuable scientific data used by scientists from around the world as soon as possible – says Francisco Cordova, director of the observatory.

Arecibo Observatory is a legend

The Arecibo radio telescope has been the largest radio telescope on Earth for over 50 years. Its canopy is 305 m in diameter and fits in a natural karst funnel. The telescope consists of 38 778 aluminum panels with dimensions of 2 × 1 m. At a height of 150 m above the dish there is a receiver for the signal collected by the telescope

Over the past 50 years, since the observatory was put into operation, it has faced numerous hurricanes, tropical storms and earthquakes. Renovation work is still underway after Hurricane Maria 2017. Nevertheless, the Arecibo Observatory has contributed significantly to groundbreaking discoveries in the field of gravitational wave research in characterizing asteroids and planets in the solar system. In 1990, Aleksander Wolszczan measured the oscillation period of the PSR 1257 + 12 pulsar using the radio telescope, thanks to which he was able to discover the first three extrasolar planets.

Aleksander Wolszczan in front of the Arecibo Observatory. Source: Facebook / Arecibo Observatory

Currently, the telescope serves, among others to study potentially dangerous asteroids relatively close to Earth. Previously, the telescope was used to search for signals from extraterrestrial intelligences, and in 1974 Arecibo emitted the strongest signal ever sent from Earth towards the Hercules Cluster, hoping to be spotted in space.

The telescope itself also has its place in pop culture. In the film Contact, based on the novel by Carl Sagan, the main character works at this observatory on a project to search for extraterrestrial civilizations. In turn, in the 1995 film Goldeneye, the last, key battle between James Bond and … one of the next "villains" takes place over the canopy of the Arecibo radio telescope.

So let’s hope that the radio telescope will be back in service soon.

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Radio telescope from the James Bond movie damaged. Until recently, it was the largest radio telescope in the world