from the a-big-blow-to-Arecibo dept.
The Arecibo Observatory is a 309 meter wide radio telescope located in Puerto Rico. Not only can it be used for passive observing of radio frequencies, it has also been used as an active source — to bounce radar signals off planetary bodies — and then use its receiver to perform imaging studies.
Hurricane Maria caused tremendous damage across Puerto Rico — many people are still struggling to find food, water, and power. Though most of the potential damage was mitigated, the observatory did sustain millions of dollars in damages and it is possible that this may lead to its being closed:
As Hurricane Maria hammered the Caribbean last week, a handful of researchers hunkered down in concrete buildings at the Arecibo Observatory with food, well water, and thousands of gallons of diesel fuel for generators. They had done their best to secure the observatory, a 305-meter-wide radio dish nestled in the karst hills of northwestern Puerto Rico. They stowed removable antennas and waveguides, locked movable instrument packages in place, and installed storm shutters on control room windows. Now, they have emerged to find only moderate damage to the observatory, on an island that has been devastated elsewhere. "It's a thing to be thankful for," says Arecibo Deputy Director Joan Schmelz.
But many are worried that the damage, likely on the scale of millions of dollars and apt to keep the observatory closed for weeks or months, will further threaten the existence of Arecibo, which is already on a short list of facilities facing possible closure or downsizing by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Alexandria, Virginia. "I fear that if there is significant damage, that will provide the decision point to decommission the observatory," says space scientist John Mathews of Pennsylvania State University in State College.
The surface of the dish was largely unscathed, and the observatory's most vulnerable component, the instrument platform suspended high above the dish by cables strung from three towers, each more than 80 meters tall, was still in place and seemed undamaged, says Schmelz. She is based at the Columbia, Maryland, headquarters of one of Arecibo's operators, the Universities Space Research Association, and spoke with staff in Puerto Rico who first used a ham radio and then a single working satellite phone. But the roofs on some observatory buildings were blown off, the sinkhole under the dish was flooded, and other equipment was damaged by rain and fallen trees. Most significantly, a large portion of a 29-meter-long antenna—the 430-megahertz line feed used for studying the upper atmosphere—appears to have broken off and fallen from the platform into the dish. Mathews estimates a bill of several million dollars to replace the line feed alone.
There are competing needs for funding. Arecibo has been superseded as the largest radio telescope by China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). Will this be the straw that break's Arecibo's funding back?
China Builds World's Largest Radiotelescope
China Can't Find Anyone Smart Enough to Run its Whizzbang $180M 500 Meter Radio Telescope
China Begins Operating World's Largest Radio Telescope
China Builds World's Largest Radiotelescope
According to 9news, construction of the world's largest radiotelescope has been completed. Situated in a hollow in the mountains of China's Guizhou province, the structure includes a 500 m reflector, hence its name Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). Unlike the Arecibo telescope, the shape of the reflector can be changed. The receiver was built by the CSIRO.
Submitted via IRC for crutchy
The world's largest radio telescope began searching for signals from stars and galaxies and, perhaps, extraterrestrial life Sunday in a project demonstrating China's rising ambitions in space and its pursuit of international scientific prestige.
Beijing has poured billions into such ambitious scientific projects as well as its military-backed space program, which saw the launch of China's second space station earlier this month.
Measuring 500 meters in diameter, the radio telescope is nestled in a natural basin within a stunning landscape of lush green karst formations in southern Guizhou province. It took five years and $180 million to complete and surpasses that of the 300-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars that led to a Nobel Prize.
The official Xinhua News Agency said hundreds of astronomers and enthusiasts watched the launch of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, in the county of Pingtang.
Researchers quoted by state media said FAST would search for gravitational waves, detect radio emissions from stars and galaxies and listen for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life.
"The ultimate goal of FAST is to discover the laws of the development of the universe," Qian Lei, an associate researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told state broadcaster CCTV.
There's also a video about it on YouTube.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
There aren't many astronomy jobs that pay very well – but the Chinese authorities are offering just that for the director of scientific operation for its new Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope.
At 500m (1,640ft) across, FAST became the world's largest filled-aperture radio telescope when construction finished last year.
While the initial building is complete and nearly 10,000 people have been moved away from the instrument to cut down on polluting it with electromagnetic signals, the telescope still needs to be calibrated and fine-tuned.
[...] Unfortunately, finding a director with the necessary skills to do the job of managing and running the instrument has proven problematic. So a foreigner is now being sought to bring their experience to bear on the project.
"The post is currently open to scientists working outside China only," a human resources official at the Chinese Academy of Sciences told the South China Morning Post. "Candidates can be of any nationality, any race."
[...] It's a tough job, managing a facility that complex and handling the competing claims for time on the 'scope from scientists. The Academy of Sciences is asking for a professor with at least 20 years' experience in radio astronomy, as well as management training.
"These requirements are very high. It puts most astronomers out of the race. I may be able to count those qualified with my fingers," said Wang Tinggui, professor of astrophysics at the University of Science and Technology of China. "It is not a job for a scientist. It's for a superhero."