October 21, 2013 - 8:33 AM
PENTICTON - A helicopter damaging a nearly 200-square metre radio telescope will become a learning experience as well as a month-long delay for the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory's role in an ambitious global science endeavor.
On Thursday a large helicopter was delivering a thin radio telescope dish from its place of manufacture to the observatory where it was to be installed. A gust of wind shook the lines, sending a wave through the dish, causing significant damage. How this happened will be studied so that the next time everyone will be better prepared.
"The dish is repairable and repairs will be done on site," National Research Council of Canada spokesperson Charles Drouin said and added it will be the observatory's own staff doing the work.
Drouin said the council feels confident about repairing the dish following the "freak accident."
Observatory director Sean Dougherty said this will be a learning experience.
"I think there is valuable lessons to be learned. And the potential risk during a heli-lift."
Watching the accident unfold was disappointing even though the observatory team of nearly 34 researchers and engineers knew it was a risk to deliver the dish this way.
"We're hoping to see it arrive intact of course," Dougherty said. As it's a composite item, and not a solid metal disk, he's confident staff can put it back into shape.
Once it's mounted at the observatory the new dish will become part of a larger project, the Square-Kilometre Array, the world's largest radio telescope. The array will be made up of thousands of radio telescopes located around the globe including in the southern portion of the African continent and Australia.
Dougherty said this is an important project. Aside from studying the stars and the origins of the universe the project is also a demonstration of how to drive down costs of radio telescope observation while maintaining the same capability.
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