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After its collapse, the world-famous Puerto Rico telescope will not be rebuilt

Sean Jones, National Science Foundation, stated that “We know how important the site has been to the community.” “If you are a radio astronomer you have probably spent some of your careers at Arecibo.”

Thursday’s announcement by the National Science Foundation stated that they will not rebuild the acclaimed radio telescope in Puerto Rico. It was one of many most significant before it fell nearly two years ago.

Instead, the agency published a solicitation to create a $5 million education center at the site. This center would encourage partnerships and programs related to science and technology engineering and math. The agency also wants to implement a program for workforce development and research. The center is expected to open in Arecibo, a northern mountain town where the telescope was once found.

The solicitation does NOT include any operational support for existing infrastructure at the site, such as a 12-meter radio telescope, or the Lidar facility. These facilities are used to study the upper atmosphere and ionosphere, and to analyze precipitation and cloud cover data.

Scientists around the globe, who used the telescope at Arecibo Observatory for many years to search for extraterrestrial life and asteroids, were saddened by the decision. The dish, which measures 1,000 feet (305 meters) in width, was also featured in “Contact”, a Jodie Foster movie, and “GoldenEye,” starring James Bond.

The reflector dish and the platform weighing 900 tons suspended 450 feet above it allowed scientists to track asteroids heading to Earth. This research led to a Nobel Prize and helped determine if a planet could be habitable.

Sean Jones, assistant director of the directorate for mathematical and physical sciences at NSF said that “We know how important the site has been to the community.” “Radio astronomers have probably spent time at Arecibo throughout their careers.”

All research was cut short when the auxiliary cable snapped in August 2020. It ripped a hole of 100 feet in the dish and damaged the dome above. Three months later, the main cable snapped and the NSF announced in November 2020 that the telescope would be closed because it was too unstable.

Experts believe that the cable snapped due to a manufacturing error. However, NSF officials stated Thursday that they are still investigating the matter.

Jones stated in a telephone interview that the U.S. government had other radar facilities capable of performing part of the same mission as Arecibo. Jones said that the NSF has also planned a five-year maintenance contract to keep it open. This would be at least $1,000,000 per year.

“This is a crucial time. James Moore, assistant director of education and human resources directorate at NSF, stated that education is vital.

Telephonically, he stated that STEM is an agency priority and that the proposed center would fulfill that goal.

He said, “It’s an opportunity to enhance some of the things young people are getting in schools or not getting.”

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