Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Giant Radio Telescope Collapses - and Rises Again


This was a case of "Humpty Dumpty", total structural failure

A giant radio telescope at Green Bank, West Virginia, collapsed into a "twisted mess" without any visible cause, or previous warning.

There was no wind, no covert landing of malicious aliens - on that night of November 15th, in 1988. During its normal operation (while studying gravitational lenses and distant galaxies), the scientific colossus suddenly folded up in a tangled heap around the control building... amazingly, according to this info, no scientist inside of it was hurt.

Before & after collapse:

(images credit: Richard Porkas)

One possible cause for this collapse is believed to be the sudden failure of a large gusset plate in the box girder assembly - a key structural element in antenna's support. The big science was thwarted (again) by a single piece of metal... as in a few other unfortunate cases we can recollect.

But honestly, we all know what REALLY happened:

New radio telescope dwarfs the old one!

The telescope was rebuilt in 2000; it is now bigger, better, and (obviously) structurally safer than its predecessor. Still, human engineering ends up pushed to the limit when it comes to such titanic and intricate structures...

At least the largest telescope dish is safely cradled between some forested hills. I'm speaking, of course, about "the largest single dish in the world" - Arecibo Observatory (at 306 meters):

(Photo courtesy of the NAIC - Arecibo Observatory, a facility of the NSF)

This is where James Bond battled his opponent, balancing on wires:

(image credit: Lacaos)

Well, the newly rebuilt in place of the collapsed telescope (and no less impressive) Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope is considered The Largest Steerable Single Dish in the World (at 100 by 110 meters) -

(image credit: Jacki Vance-Kuss)

(image credit: National Radio Astronomy Observatory)

See miniature people below? This is truly a colossal structure:

(image credit: Geremia)

(image credit: Geremia)

The giant bearing (at the end of elevation axle):

Can you spot two workmen on a walkway? -

(images credit: NRAO)

Contrary to all logic, this giant Russian telescope still stands strong!

Other telescopes can collapse, but this one keeps standing. Even though it's totally rusted and has been abandoned for years... Having a rainbow snuggle up to its dish apparently helps with a structural blessing:

See more images on this page. We also wrote once about another abandoned Ionospheric Research Staion. Time to bring these facilities back to life... especially since they refuse to come to total ruin and continue to haunt the landscape.

Strangest Shape for a Radio Telescope

This is "The Horn Antenna" at Bell Labs, Holmdel, New Jersey. It's where the cosmic microwave background radiation was discovered in 1965. Apparently such design worked really well for research purposes... truly looks like one giant ear, tuned to the Universe:

(image credit: Bell Labs)

Maybe the "hostile aliens" are too freaked by its appearance to zap it... maybe they're consolidating their forces to strike against CERN's collider. Maybe these aliens are listening to all I type. I should stop now...

Article is based on materials from Matias Callone and National Radio Astronomy Observatory

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Category: Technology,Science

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