This is the moment when the Arecibo radio telescope of the United States, known as one of the “two big eyes” of the earth, collapsed. American scientists lament that now we can only rely on the “Chinese Sky Eye” FAST radio telescope to observe deep space.
All three support towers are broken.
It is reported that the telescope had many accidents before the collapse. The last time the Arecibo telescope was used on August 6, a joint of the locking auxiliary steel cable failed in the next few days, which is believed to be a production error. On November 6, another steel cable broke. Finally, there was a collapse on December 1.
According to US media, relevant engineers have assessed the damage and determined that all three support towers of the telescope have broken, and the 900-ton receiving platform has fallen to the disc-shaped reflector below. In addition, the supporting steel cable of the telescope has also broken.
△ Comparison before and after collapse
Abel Mendes, a physicist who has long worked at the Arecibo Observatory, said: “The only one doing similar research now is the Chinese 500-meter spherical radio telescope, which is more sensitive than Arecibo. Without Arecibo, we lost the ability to monitor weak radio signals 24 hours a day. Now we only have one eye.
△ Close-up of collapse released by the University of Central Florida
Built for the study of anti-missile
Conversion to civilian use after the cold war
From its inaugurated 1963 to 2016, the Arecibo Radio Telescope has been the world’s largest single aperture telescope. Although it was nominally used for deep space science research, it was actually born for anti-missile research in the Cold War.
During the Cold War, the Arecibo telescope was used not only for extensive ionospheric research but also to collect information on Soviet electronic signals at the time, including Soviet radar signals that bounced back from the surface of the moon.
After the Cold War, Arecibo officially turned to civilian scientific research, with the main task of searching for dangerous near-Earth asteroids and finding signs of extraterrestrial life. For more than 50 years, Arecibo has made significant contributions in gravitational waves, asteroid characterization, planetary exploration, etc.: it discovered the first planet outside the solar system; in 1974, it also discovered the first binary pulsar, indirectly confirming Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
China FAST comprehensive performance super Arecibo
More than 240 pulsars have been discovered in four years.
Now, with Arecibo’s withdrawal from the stage of history, the burden of human exploration of deep space falls on the shoulders of Chinese telescopes. Known as the “China Sky Eye”, the 500-meter spherical radio telescope FAST was conceived by the late Chinese astronomer Nan Rendong in 1994. It took 22 years to build and was completed and opened on September 25, 2016, entering the commissioning period. On January 11, 2020, FAST passed the national acceptance and was officially opened for operation.
FAST has China’s independent intellectual property rights and is the world’s largest single-caliber and most sensitive radio telescope. Since its inaugurated in 2016, it has found more than 240 pulsars in four years. In the more than 50 years since the discovery of the first pulsar in 1967, only more than 2,700 pulsars have been discovered by human beings.
In addition, FAST can also find some early signs of galaxy activity, which is conducive to discovering the motion and development trajectory of planetary stars and prying into the mystery of the origin of the universe. In addition, it can capture weak electromagnetic waves from anywhere in the solar system, which can help humans find terrestrial planets similar to Earth and prepare for future interstellar migration.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences announced that the “China Sky Eye” will be made public to the world in 2021, and researchers around the world can apply for using FAST for cosmic observations.