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posted by Fnord666 on Thursday September 28, @12:17AM   Printer-friendly
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

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China Builds World's Largest Radiotelescope 15 comments

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.

China Begins Operating World's Largest Radio Telescope 6 comments

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.

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China Can't Find Anyone Smart Enough to Run its Whizzbang $180M 500 Meter Radio Telescope 19 comments

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."

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by acid andy on Thursday September 28, @12:40AM (7 children)

    by acid andy (1683) on Thursday September 28, @12:40AM (#574120)

    SETI@Home uses data from Arecibo. I think they can switch to another observatory if necessary though.

    Make hay whilst the intervening mass is insufficient to inhibit the perceived intensity of incoming solar radiation.
    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday September 28, @12:57AM (2 children)

      by bob_super (1357) on Thursday September 28, @12:57AM (#574127)

      So, Maria was a Chinese conspiracy to be the first ones to find Aliens with their new dish?
      Also matches that article about the Chinese having issues finding someone to be the director of their new toy... Send a global-warming-stirred hurricane to destroy Arecibo, and suddenly you have desperate candidates.

      Forget North Korea, Russia and Iran, the Chinese are taking over!

      (and stop wasting your spare CPU cycles on SETI, there are actually useful causes to donate them to)

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @01:27AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @01:27AM (#574145)

      Shitty@Home still exists? Did millennial hipsters join the bandwagon, or is everyone an unemployed middle aged GenX loser still running the same Fast Fucker Transform on the same blueberry iMac from 1999? I want to believe in X-Files too but it might take a very long time without a hardware upgrade. Better lobby for some more basic income, right?

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Thursday September 28, @01:33AM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) <> on Thursday September 28, @01:33AM (#574152) Journal []

        Breakthrough Listen is a program to search for intelligent extraterrestrial communications in the Universe. With $100 million in funding and thousands of hours of dedicated telescope time on state-of-the-art facilities, it is the most comprehensive search for alien communications to date. The project began in January 2016, and is expected to continue for 10 years. It is a component of Yuri Milner's Breakthrough Initiatives program. The science program for Breakthrough Listen is based at Berkeley SETI Research Center, located in the Astronomy Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

        The project uses radio wave observations from the Green Bank Observatory and the Parkes Observatory, and visible light observations from the Automated Planet Finder. Targets for the project include one million nearby stars and the centers of 100 galaxies. All data generated from the project are available to the public, and SETI@Home is used for some of the data analysis. The first results were published in April 2017, with further updates expected every 6 months.

        [SIG] 04/14/2017: Soylent Upgrade v13 []
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @04:15AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @04:15AM (#574203)

      I wonder what SETI@Home's energy use and carbon footprint are compared to a dedicate computing facility? And how many people run the client at home where they have to pay the electric bill vs. on campus or in the office where someone else covers the cost?

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by realDonaldTrump on Thursday September 28, @01:27AM (10 children)

    by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Thursday September 28, @01:27AM (#574146) Homepage Journal

    Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. If that doesn't happen, a military option is certainly something that we could pursue. 🇺🇸

    • (Score: 5, Touché) by coolgopher on Thursday September 28, @02:04AM (8 children)

      by coolgopher (1157) Subscriber Badge on Thursday September 28, @02:04AM (#574173)

      I agree. The banks need to be dealt with. Even if it's with the military option. ;)

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by edIII on Thursday September 28, @02:36AM (7 children)

        by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Thursday September 28, @02:36AM (#574182)

        Trump is a real piece of shit. I just looked up his tweets to see if he gives a fuck about the disaster, and the parody account here basically parroted him. The comedians are right, he literally does their jobs for them. You may have well as responded to the real bastard himself.

        Looking around, Trump has yet to do jack shit. Congress is waiting for their requests, and the ball is basically in his court. Instead of saying anything presidential at all, he makes a comment about how much money they owe. Talk about a fucking hypocritical bankruptcy-going son of a bitch that needs to be removed from office. Forcefully, if necessary. Taking-a-knee isn't as nearly important as the humanitarian crisis on U.S territory. Of course I say that, but we didn't come through for Katrina's communities either. Man, Puerto Rico is fucked.

        The only person that seems to give a shit is John McCain, and he is actually doing his damn job. Dear Sweet Jesus how much did the right fuck up when they didn't nominate him.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @03:52AM (3 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @03:52AM (#574197)

          > Man, Puerto Rico is fucked.

          Yep, everywhere, not just the radio telescope.

          Just heard from an old friend from the midwest USA. He has been living cheaply on his ~28 foot sail boat in the Caribbean for ~20 years. He was moored in a harbor in PR this year. Did OK in the first storm that passed by, two larger boats got loose upwind of him but he managed to motor off to the side (while still anchored). Maria was much worse, 150+ mph winds and this time his boat was sunk by a derelict boat that broke anchor upwind of him.

          He's giving up on the whole area, following his GF to Columbia. Sounds like he's giving up boat life for now.

          • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Thursday September 28, @04:19AM (2 children)

            by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Thursday September 28, @04:19AM (#574205) Journal

            Couldn't he just have sailed to a location not affected by the hurricane? Or was the warning time too short for that?

            The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @04:25AM (1 child)

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @04:25AM (#574208)

              I thought he would sail out of the storm path, but the way it sounded the boat wasn't ready for that long of a trip. He'd been moored too long, let boat maintenance slip while doing other things in PR (like working).

              • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @06:44AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @06:44AM (#574260)

                ...boat maintenance slip...

                I see what you did there.

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday September 28, @05:05PM

          by DannyB (5839) on Thursday September 28, @05:05PM (#574434)

          The comedians are right, [Trump] literally does their jobs for them.

          Yep. It makes sense considering Trump said the following, claiming he's not preoccupied by important national matters such as NFL players.


          "Was I preoccupied? Not at all. Not at all. I have plenty of time on my [tiny] hands, " . . . "All I do is work."

          He has plenty of time to do comedians' jobs for them. But it also fits with "All I do is work" because that work saves the comedians time.

          Looking around, Trump has yet to do jack shit.

          That is also consistent with having plenty of time on his tiny hands.

        • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Thursday September 28, @06:06PM (1 child)

          by DeathMonkey (1380) Subscriber Badge on Thursday September 28, @06:06PM (#574466) Journal

          I believe the theory that he didn't even know Puerto Rico was part of the US until several days after the disaster.

          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday September 29, @02:04PM

            by DannyB (5839) on Friday September 29, @02:04PM (#574794)

            Now that he knows Puerto Rico is part of the US, this will spoil his plans to build a wall along the US and Puerto Rico border.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @02:31AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @02:31AM (#574178)

      Shit Donnie, you stiffed Wall Street and various banks, why not let PR do the same things?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @03:21PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, @03:21PM (#574380)

    If it survives, then it will be a great opportunity for clearing out older workers and bringing in more young blood (previous story). IIRC the observatory's financial future was already in danger even without any disasters. []