Se~~December 1, 2020~~
WAKING UP TO SAD NEWS
I have posted about the Arecibo Observatory, located in Puerto Rico, several times. This is an institution, a scientific and research station for the world. This was a location where several movies were shot. Most of all, this is Puerto Rican pride.
The installation opened opened its doors on November 1, 1963. I was 13 years old at the time. Plenty of school fields trips and visits as an adult were planned and completed. This is a staple in my life.
Years of the usual governmental decay, politics, natural disasters – Hurricane María and the earthquakes in early 2020 lead to significant damage. There were requests made for emergency funds to repair the damage that was reported and documented
Early this morning, very sad to report, the platform collapsed!
Here are some views!
The main instrument of the observatory was the Arecibo Telescope, a 305 m (1,000 ft) spherical reflector dish built into a natural sinkhole, a cable-mount steerable receiver mounted 150 m (492 ft) above the dish, and several radar transmitters for emitting signals. For more than 50 years, the Arecibo Telescope was the world’s largest single-aperture telescope, surpassed in July 2016 by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China. The Observatory also includes a radio telescope, a Lidar facility, and a visitor’s center.
~This catastrophic scenario is something the NSF feared might happen~
On November 19th, the agency announced that the remaining cables at Arecibo ran the risk of failing, which could lead to the platform’s collapse.
Knowing this was imminent, NSF said it planned to demolish Arecibo in a controlled manner, concluding that there was no safe way to save the observatory. Managers had evacuated the facility and set up a “safety exclusion zone” to keep people away.
~Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico collapses as engineers feared~
The telescope’s 900-ton platform came crashing down overnight. The massive Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico collapsed in on itself overnight. The catastrophic failure had been predicted by engineers after the telescope suffered two major cable malfunctions over the last couple of months, risking the integrity of the observatory’s entire structure.
Pictures of Arecibo surfaced online this morning, revealing that the massive 900-ton platform that is normally suspended above the observatory was no longer there.
The National Science Foundation, which oversees Arecibo, confirmed to The Verge that the platform did come crashing down onto the telescope’s giant 1,000-foot-wide dish. No injuries have been reported, according to the agency.
~The collapse comes at the end of a difficult period for Arecibo~
In August, the observatory suffered its first major malfunction, when an auxiliary cable came loose from its socket and fell onto the observatory’s dish, punching a large hole in the structure.
At the time, NSF and the University of Central Florida, which oversees day-to-day operations at Arecibo, vowed to investigate the failure and fix the damage in order to get the observatory up and running again.
But as engineers were figuring out a path forward for repairs, a second main cable failed on November 6th. This time, the cable snapped and also fell onto Arecibo’s giant dish, causing damage to other cables nearby.
Engineers found that the other cables could not be guaranteed to hold. The NSF concluded that Arecibo would eventually collapse if no actions were taken; they just didn’t know when the collapse might occur. The agency had hoped to demolish the structure before it took place.
The NSF’s decision to tear down Arecibo was met with a lot of pushback from fans of the telescope. Arecibo has been a major beacon of opportunity in Puerto Rico as well as an incredible asset for peering into the cosmos.
The observatory has been used to identify distant exotic objects like pulsars as well as to listen for mysterious blasts of radio waves coming from the distant Universe. Scientists also used Arecibo in 1974 to send out a picture message out into the cosmos, detailing humanity’s achievements for anyone that might be listening. Arecibo has also made numerous cameos in television and film, including GoldenEye and Contact.
Not wanting to see the observatory demolished, a Puerto Rican scientist launched a petition on Change.org to urge the NSF to repair Arecibo.
As of today, the petition has more than 36,000 signatures.
(Today, I read, signed and shared this petition!)
NSF is saddened by this development,” the agency tweeted about the collapse. “As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”NSF is saddened by this development,” the agency tweeted about the collapse. “As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”
~BEFORE AND AFTER~
Top photo shows the towers without the platform. Bottom photo shows the Observatory in all its glory.
Photos by Deborah Martorell
BEFORE THE TOTAL COLLAPSE
On November 19, the National Science Foundation announced the decommissioning and controlled demolition of the Arecibo Observatory 305-meter radio telescope, due to safety concerns after the rupture of two cables. The telescope houses the world’s most powerful planetary radar system, responsible for critical follow-up observations of asteroids.
The telescope structure includes 20 tons of lead counterweights. Its demolition or unplanned collapse presents the potential of an environmental emergency as it lies on top of an aquifer and would affect the nearby population.
We urge emergency action to have the Army Corps of Engineers or another agency evaluate the telescope structure and search for a safe way to stabilize it, to provide time for other actions to be considered and carried out.
~~Published January 23, 2014~~
The Arecibo Observatory is a radio telescope in the municipality of Arecibo, Puerto Rico. This observatory is operated by SRI International, USRA and UMET, under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF).
This observatory is also called the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, although “NAIC” refers to both the observatory and the staff that operates it. From its construction in the 1960s until 2011, the observatory was managed by Cornell University.