According to a new engineering report, the condition and status of the Arecibo Observatory’s main antenna, suspended by cables above its giant radio dish, appears very uncertain and to be worsening.
Preliminary analysis indicates the main cable, which failed on Nov. 6, should have easily handled the extra load based on design capacity. Engineers suspect it is likely that the second cable failed because it has degraded over time and has been carrying extra load since August. A final determination could not be made without retrieving and analyzing the second cable.
The engineering firms cannot verify the integrity of the other cables at this time supporting the 900-ton platform. Each of the structure’s remaining cables is now supporting more weight than before, increasing the likelihood of another cable failure, which would likely result in the collapse of the entire structure.
Other wire breaks on two of the remaining main cables have also been observed. [emphasis mine]
If the 900 ton antenna structure that the cables hold up should fall, it will do significant damage to the disk, and will also likely make the cost of repairing the radio telescope prohibitive.
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