Arecibo Observatory Collapsed

A close-up of the damage from the Arecibo Observatory telescope collapse on Dec. 1, 2020.

A shut-up of the injury from the Arecibo Observatory telescope give scheme on Dec. 1, 2020.

(Image: © UCF)

After two cable screw ups in the span of four months, Puerto Rico’s most passe astronomy facility, the Arecibo radio telescope, has collapsed in an uncontrolled structural failure.

The U.S. National Science Basis (NSF), which owns the position, decided in November to proceed with decommissioning the telescope basically based entirely mostly on the injury, which engineers deemed too extreme to stabilize with out risking lives. Nonetheless the NSF needed time to approach up with a understanding for the kind to safely slay the telescope in a controlled map.

Instead, gravity did the job this morning (Dec. 1) at about 8 a.m. native time, in accordance with stories from the put aside.

“NSF is saddened by this pattern,” the company wrote in a tweet. “As we saunter ahead, we are in a position to be looking out for techniques to relief the scientific community and defend our solid relationship with the oldsters of Puerto Rico.”

The NSF added that no injuries had been reported, that the tip precedence used to be to defend security and that extra crucial aspects will be equipped when confirmed.

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“What a tragic day for Astronomy and Planetary science worldwide and one amongst essentially the most iconic telescopes of all time,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s affiliate administrator for science, wrote in a tweet. “My thoughts are with the workers contributors and scientists who possess continued to originate astronomical science for the length of the past years and whose lifestyles is straight tormented by this.”

Pictures shared on Twitter by Deborah Martorell, a meteorologist for Puerto Rican television stations, compare views of the observatory taken the day old to this — showing the 900-ton science platform suspended over the massive dish strung up on cables — and today, when the observatory’s three supporting towers are bare.

Ayer fue la última vez que visite esta belleza de lugar. Lamentablemente agonizaba. Aquí imágenes de ayer y hoy. 1, 2020

None of the three towers collapsed entirely, which used to be one amongst NSF’s key concerns about leaving the constructing as it used to be. Martorell’s image does appear to gift some injury in the knot of constructions on the frightening of 1 among the toughen towers, which entails administrative constructions and a public customer’s heart, even supposing the constructions are aloof standing.

In an interview with native television location Noticentro, Jonathan Friedman, a physicist who works at Arecibo Observatory and lives nearby, acknowledged that he heard a loud rumble that he when put next to a educate or an avalanche — or to the earthquakes that plagued Puerto Rico in January. Friedman moreover confirmed that handiest the guidelines of the supporting towers broke off, as Martorell’s image suggested.

Linked: Arecibo isn’t in actuality the first radio telescope to with out be conscious fail. Here’s what we can learn from Green Bank’s give scheme.

An archive image of Arecibo Observatory's massive radio dish shows the heavy science platform suspended above it, two of the supporting towers and the complex cabling holding it up.

An archive image of Arecibo Observatory’s huge radio dish reveals the heavy science platform suspended above it, two of the supporting towers and the advanced cabling preserving it up. (Image credit: Courtesy of the NAIC – Arecibo Observatory, a facility of the NSF)

For the reason that first cable failure in August, Arecibo Observatory has enforced a security zone on the flexibility, even supposing its measurement modified as injury used to be incurred and evaluated, Ralph Gaume, director of NSF’s Division of Tall Sciences, acknowledged for the length of a files conference held on Nov. 19, at which the NSF offered its chance to decommission the telescope.

Even for the length of that files conference, the tenuous disclose of the telescope used to be clear. “The advance, as some distance as I know, is currently standing, so as that suggests that it’s some distance currently stable,” Gaume acknowledged on the time, whereas moreover noting the 2.5-month gap between the first cable failure and the 2d.

The huge radio dish has been on the forefront of atmospheric science, radio astronomy, and planetary radar ability for decades. It used to be moreover the weird telescope to change into an icon in well-liked culture, thanks in half to its leading roles in the motion pictures GoldenEye and Contact.

As well to the telescope, Arecibo Observatory moreover entails a LIDAR instrument that scientists use to note the put aside the put aside Earth’s atmosphere and residential meet. When the NSF offered that it can maybe maybe decommission the telescope, officers emphasised that a key precedence used to be guaranteeing Arecibo Observatory as a greater facility would continue.

On the time, the NSF could well maybe not assess whether the telescope will be modified.

“That is a terribly, in actuality disturbing morning for Puerto Rico, for science, for our connection to the cosmos,” journalist Nadia Drake, whose father Frank Drake is a feeble director of Arecibo Observatory, wrote in a tweet. “RIP #Arecibo.”

Editor’s gift: The story used to be up as much as now at 9: 15 a.m. to incorporate a tell from the NSF. Email Meghan Bartels at or note her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Narrate us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Fb.

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