Arecibo is one of the great scientific platforms in the world of astronomy and is simply – to me at least – still one of the great technological wonders of the modern world.
Those who see the Arecibo radio telescope for the first time are astounded by the enormousness of the reflecting surface, or radio mirror. The huge “dish” is 305 m (1000 feet) in diameter, 167 feet deep, and covers an area of about twenty acres. The surface is made of almost 40,000 perforated aluminum panels, each measuring about 3 feet by 6 feet, supported by a network of steel cables strung across the underlying karst sinkhole. It is a spherical (not parabolic) reflector.
Suspended 450 feet above the reflector is the 900 ton platform. Similar in design to a bridge, it hangs in midair on eighteen cables, which are strung from three reinforced concrete towers. One is 365 feet high, and the other two are 265 feet high. All three tops are at the same elevation. The combined volume of reinforced concrete in all three towers is 9,100 cubic yards. Each tower is back-guyed to ground anchors with seven 3.25 inch…
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