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The Arecibo Observatory — the massive radio telescope located in Puerto Rico — collapsed upon itself in the early hours of Dec.1, 2020. Engineers predicted this collapse after the telescope had suffered two major cable malfunctions. These malfunctions have occurred over the past few months and have caused a lot of stress on the entire Arecibo Observatory’s structure.
According to The Verge, the National Science Foundation — which oversees the Arecibo Observatory — confirmed that the platform crashed into the telescope’s huge 1,000-foot-wide dish. The agency further stated there were no injuries reported.
In a tweet, the National Science Foundation stated they were working with “stakeholders to assess the situation.” They further commented that their “top priority is maintaining safety.” When they have more information about the situation they will release that information.
Arecibo Observatory’s Past Problems
The National Science Foundation announced on November 19 that the cables on the Arecibo Observatory were at risk of failing. They had planned to demolish the telescope in a controlled manner. The agency came to this decision after they found there was no safe way to save the Arecibo Observatory.
Managers had the facility evacuated and set up a “safety exclusion zone.” The collapse at the Arecibo Observatory ends a very difficult period for the facility.
In August, the auxiliary cable loosened from its socket and punctured the structure. At that time the University of Florida — who managed day-to-day operations — and the National Science Foundation vowed to investigate the problem and fix any damages.
The next cable failure occurred in November. Over the past week, the remaining cables have slowly been breaking. According to Ramon Lugo — Director of the Florida Space Institute — the remaining cables have been losing one wire per day for the past week.
The Arecibo Observatory was built in a natural sinkhole in 1963. It was the world’s largest single-dish telescope when it was built. It was used to detect objects flying by the Earth. In 1974 it broadcasted the now-famous “Arecibo Message.” The “Arecibo Message” was used to show intelligent extraterrestrials human’s technical prowess.
Ending the Alie-hunting Era
After standing for 57 years, the year 2020 really took its toll on the Arecibo Observatory. Other than the two cable issues the building also withstood an earthquake in January. Many scientists had hoped the iconic telescope could be repaired.
The National Science Foundation was deeply “saddened by this development.” They stated when they heard about the 900-ton platform collapsing onto the dish.
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.
Many people feel losing the Arecibo Observatory has ended an era of alien-hunting. Some people feel the “truth is still out there.” They further believe losing this observatory has just caused some setbacks in their hunt for extraterrestrial beings.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Live Science: Broken Arecibo telescope collapses, ending an era of alien-hunting by Mindy Weisberger
The Verge: Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico collapses as engineers feared
Featured Image by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License