This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

25 March 2007

Article on Arecibo and Funding Issues

Selections from the article follow:

The prospect of closing a telescope able to spot a basketball-size object 100 light years away comes at a time when leading scientists searching the heavens have discovered a major asteroid that has a 1 in 45,000 chance of striking Earth in 2036.

Wayne Van Citters, the National Science Foundation's division director for astronomy, said a decision to limit Arecibo's funding to $6 million by 2011 was made on the advice of a review committee. The annual budget is now $12.5 million.

If the observatory can't make ends meet via other avenues of support, then closure is a possibility, he added.

"We undertook this process to determine how we might change the balance [in funding] or close down certain facilities in order to move into the future," Van Citters explained.

Seeking international funding is one idea that has gained traction to lessen National Science Foundation cuts, Arecibo officials said. The idea of selling advertising on the telescope's dish has even been discussed.

The "dish" is 1,000 feet in diameter, 167 feet deep, and covers an area of about 20 acres. The surface is made of almost 40,000 perforated aluminum panels, each measuring about 3 feet by 6 feet, supported by steel cables strung across an underlying sinkhole.

Suspended 450 feet above the reflector is the 900-ton platform that hangs in midair on 18 cables strung from three reinforced concrete towers.

Arecibo is one of two places in the world where radar astronomy is effectively performed, officials said. The other is the 230-foot wide Goldstone antenna in California's Mojave Desert. While the Arecibo radar cannot be steered like Goldstone, Puerto Rico's observatory is said to be 30 times more sensitive in detecting returning signals.

Link: Article

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