Arecibo Telescope (un)Decommissioned

Welp folks, it looks like Arecibo is getting decommissioned for good!

Arecibo has been providing us with astronomical data for nearly 60 years. Located in Puerto Rico, this radio telescope has an impressive 305 m dish and its architecture makes good use of the natural enviromnent.

Arecibo Observatory in November. Credit: University of Central Florida

Unfortunately all good things come to an end. An auxiliary cable slipped out of a socket and damaged part of the telescope on August 10th this year. This cost a large sum of money to repair, but before reparations were made a second cable broke within the same area on November 6th.

The second breakage was a surprise, and engineers estimate that other cables in the telescope were a lot weaker than expected. Upon assessment, they found multiple damaged sockets and deemed any further repair unsafe.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) manage the observatory, and were recommended to decommission it entirely.

Arecibo Observatory. Credit: Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz.

This isn’t the end of Arecibo! The observatory has other facilities such as LIDAR and Culebra, which use pulses of light to measure distances and meteorology respectively. UCF aims to restore these facilities and hopefully expand Arecibo in terms of educational outreach!

Thank you Arecibo for your amazing work in science, and James Bond movies!

Reference: NSF News Release 20-010

Update: Arecibo’s dish has fallen and $8 million to rebuild the telescope!

Unfortunately Arecibo’s dish collapsed by itself on December the 1st 2020. You can find more information about it and watch the collapse here:

And fortunately, the Government of Puerto Rico has pledged $8 million dollars to rebuild Arecibo. According to Governor Garced “$8 million should cover the removal and disposal of debris and the design of the new radio telescope,” which is fantastic since the location is great for observations and can make way for new tech to take over!

It’s not too bad after all!


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