August 19, 2020, By: The Editors of Sky & Telescope Read more about the impact of the observatory's loss on the astronomy community and on Puerto Rico: "Iconic Arecibo Telescope Damaged, To Be Dismantled.". The Arecibo Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by the University of Central Florida. The loss of the dish is a major blow to the scientific community (particularly those working in Puerto Rico), as it was the second largest radio dish in the world. The learning center located near Tower 12 appears to have sustained “significant damage,” according to the NSF. Although I never saw the telescope in person, I am saddened by its loss and thankful that no one was injured. What a loss to the community that used it and the surrounding economy. The National Science Foundation’s Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, known for its studies of asteroids and aliens and for its cameo in a James Bond film, collapsed this morning (Dec. 1). The famous observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, featured in the James Bond movie "GoldenEye," has been forced to temporarily close after a broken cable … RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images Two weeks later, the NSF announced that it would dismantle the telescope, while still supporting other onsite facilities, such as the LIDAR facility for geospace research. Astronomers knew the clock was ticking for the iconic Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. By: Monica Young A preliminary assessment of the scene shows that the tops of all three platforms were sheared off as a result of the structural breakdown and that falling debris, including the support wires, landed outside the area of the dish. The 305-metre radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico survived decades of hurricanes, including Hurricane Maria in 2017, and earthquakes, including unusually strong ones in early January 2020. Staff member Jonathan Friedman, who lives near the telescope, reported to the Associated Press that he heard the collapse as a rumble. By: David Dickinson That's a long time for a load-bearing steel structure to be exposed to tropical humidity, hurricanes, etc. The new dome installed in the 1990's was really heavy. Business Insider - The destruction of Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory has been photographed from space. The National Science Foundation is reporting that the 900-ton platform, suspended over the dish via multiple cables to three support towers, has fallen. The Arecibo Message was meant more as a demonstration to celebrate a remodeling of the observatory rather than a … Once we've figure out what went wrong, let's build it back better than before. This is a sad ending, but thankfully they recognized the danger and were able to prevent injury. Completed in 1963, the Arecibo Observatory contributed to a host of astronomical discoveries. 615. The area continues to be off limits to unauthorized personnel, while engineers are evaluating the stability of the remaining structures, such as the LIDAR facility used to study the upper atmosphere. The collapse occurred at around 7:55 a.m. local time on December 1, as the receiving platform plunged 450 feet (140 meters) down to the 1,000-foot (305-meter) dish below, which had already been damaged in recent months by fallen cables. Gut-wrenching pictures and video documented the beginning of the end for one of the world's most iconic telescopes. The 900-ton instrument platform fell onto the dish below and can be seen lying on the side of the structure. Arecibo, built in 1963, was the world's largest single-dish radio telescope until 2016, when China completed a larger one. This is a particularly painful view of the damage, showing the mangled instrument platform, the busted Gregorian Dome (a multi-beam receiver capable of scanning multiple points in the sky at once), and the fallen support cables, which sliced through the dish like knives. A forensic investigation of the cables is still ongoing, and we eagerly await the results. This image shows the Vela pulsar, taken by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in 2013. "The team is looking very closely at why that happened.". September 27, 2017, By: David Dickinson Years ago, my good friend and her husband visited Puerto Rico and saw the radio telescope. Iconic Arecibo Telescope Damaged, To Be Dismantled, Another Cable Snaps at the Arecibo Observatory, Arecibo Observatory Emerges from Storm with $6M Upgrade, Some Damage to Arecibo Observatory; Stormy Times Ahead, 60-Second Astro News: Merging Black Holes, Distant Super-Supernova, and Arecibo's Fate. Was it just a coincidence that the cables snapped while the top of the tower was being observed with a drone, or were the engineers watching the tower continuously by drone? The dish was used to detect the very first exoplanets and the first binary pulsar (which resulted in a Nobel Prize in physics), and it famously transmitted a message to aliens. A preliminary assessment of the collapse indicates that the top section of all three of the support towers broke off. The telescope collapsed earlier this month, following damaged inflicted by Tropical Storm Isaias in August. The platform that collapsed was original to the 1960s construction but became significantly heavier in the 1990s, when new instruments were added. The National Science Foundation has released footage of the telescope's collapse. The Arecibo Observatory is an icon of astronomy. When he ran to a hill overlooking the natural sinkhole that’s home to the massive 305-meter radio dish, he could see the dust cloud coming up from the collapsed structure. I hope NSF will thoroughly investigate how this failure happened, and release a full public report. George is a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo. The famous radar dish was recently slated for controlled demolition following a series of cable failures. February 22, 2018. The Arecibo Observatory prior to the collapse. Here’s how the facility looked in 2019, before this year’s cable failures: “We knew this was a possibility, but it is still heartbreaking to see,” Elizabeth Klonoff, vice president for research at the University of Central Florida, which manages the facility for the NSF, told UCF Today. Arecibo was the world’s second largest radio telescope and … The upgrade also warranted additional support cables, and it was one of these support cables that came out of its socket in August. See photos … A huge radio telescope in Puerto Rico that has long played a key role in astronomical discoveries collapsed on Tuesday, officials said. “Our focus is now on assessing the damage, finding ways to restore operations at other parts of the observatory, and working to continue supporting the scientific community, and the people of Puerto Rico,” says NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan. The 900-ton platform suspended above the dish fell overnight. I wonder if the recent funding problems, changes in ownership and management, etc., caused necessary maintenance to be deferred. Arecibo Observatory is the largest facility in the world that can blast a radar beam at near-Earth objects or even nearby planets, then wait for and analyze the echo as that beam bounces back. Sky & Telescope, Night Sky, and skyandtelescope.org are registered trademarks of AAS Sky Publishing LLC. Photo by Ricardo Arduengo / AFP via Getty Images The massive Arecibo Observatory … The 900-ton platform that hung above the radio dish fell 450 feet (140 meters) into … That upgrade — including a Gregorian reflector system to help focus radio signals and a powerful radar transmitter — made Arecibo the powerhouse radio observatory and radar facility it was until this past August. The view from the ground is not much better, showing the destruction in detail. pic.twitter.com/stJScy2Old. The National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, also called the Arecibo Observatory, was constructed by Cornell University from 1960 to 1963 under the leadership of Prof. William E. Gordon (Ph.D. ’53).Named for the municipality in which it is located in highland Puerto Rico, Arecibo was the world’s largest single-unit radio telescope and has been the site of many astronomical discoveries. The 1,000-foot wide Arecibo Observatory radio telescope platform fell apart in Puerto Rico, ending an era of space exploration. The receiver of the Arecibo Radio Telescope hangs suspended by cables over the 1000' foot dish of the radio telescope below it. Twitter user Deborah Martorell shared a photo of the collapse from afar: Amigos es con profundo pesar comunicarles que acaba de colapsar la plataforma del Observatorio de Arecibo. Arecibo Observatory Radar Imagery of Phaethon Asteroid December 22, 2017 These radar images of near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon were generated by astronomers at the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory on Dec. 17, 2017. For context, here’s what the radar dish looked like on November 19, 2020, following two cable failures. It also survived attempts by its owner, the US National Science Foundation, to reduce its funding. RICARDO ARDUENGO via Getty Images This aerial view shows a hole in the dish panels of the Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, on November 19, 2020. Engineers said the structure was at risk of imminent collapse and that it would be too dangerous for workers to attempt repairs. That all three support towers are still standing is fortunate, as it was feared a collapse of the towers would damage buildings nearby. November 10, 2020, By: Elizabeth Howell The scientific community is mourning the sudden loss of Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Qihou Zhou on Arecibo's instrument platform in 1993 (all images except last courtesy of Zhou). No injuries were reported, but the collapse has caused considerable damage to the radar dish and surrounding facilities, including a learning center, according to the U.S. National Science Foundation. The cause of the collapse is still under investigation, but as NSF officials pointed out during a press conference held on November 19, the cables did not perform as expected, possibly on account of exposure to excessive moisture. 1 of 7 An aerial view of the damage at the Arecibo Observatory after one of the main cables holding the receiver broke in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, … Knowing that I am an astronomy enthusiast, she brought back an Arecibo ballcap as a souvenir for me which I keep in my office to this day! Gut-wrenching pictures and video documented the beginning of the end for one of the world’s most iconic telescopes. An auxiliary cable slipped from its socket in August, and a main cable snapped in early November due to the added strain. The giant radio telescope in Puerto Rico opened in 1963 and is the second-largest of its kind on Earth. All images are property of NAIC - Arecibo Observatory, a facility of the NSF You are welcome to download these images for non-profit / non-commercial use. Recovery teams are also currently working to mitigate potential environmental damage caused by the collapse. arecibo observatory, arecibo, puerto rico, december 2009 - arecibo observatory stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images. It crashed into the dish and damaged surrounding facilities, ending any hopes of a more controlled decommissioning. The Washington Post via Getty Images. Amazing footage!! No injuries were reported as a result of the collapse. Astronomers still use Arecibo data to study pulsars today, although other instruments make for prettier pictures. First, a support cable wrenched out of its socket on August 10th, then a main cable snapped on November 6th. (You can unsubscribe anytime). This aerial view shows the damage at the Arecibo Observatory after the 900-ton platform fell 140 meters (450 feet), taking the supporting cables with it, and smashing onto the radio dish below. August 27, 2018, By: David Dickinson The full extent of the damage is still being assessed. Arecibo hosts 90,000 visitors each year. Arecibo… Each cable is 8.25 centimeters thick and made of 160 wires, but drone footage of the remaining cables to that tower showed individual wires were breaking daily. High winds from the storm damaged a 3-inch-thick auxiliary suspension cable attached to a central, 900-ton … Arecibo was nicely featured in the movie "Contact",,, but the video of it coming down so closely resembles the loss of the machine that they were building in the same movie. In this Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, file photo, provided by the Arecibo Observatory, shows the damage done by a broken cable that supported a metal platform, creating a 100-foot (30-meter) gash to … The Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico has collapsed less than two weeks after officials announced it was too dangerous to attempt repairs. My goodness.. the Arecibo has been part of my memories for as long as I've been following astronomy ... 20+ years now with S&T! An aerial view of the Arecibo Observatory after the collapse on December 1, 2020. Sky & Telescope maintains a strict policy of editorial independence from the AAS and its research publications in reporting developments in astronomy to readers. Gut-Wrenching Photos Show Damage at Arecibo Observatory Following Collapse, With the platform gone, Arecibo looks very different, The towers still stand—but without their tops. All rights reserved. This is quite a catastrophe, and a very sad loss for science and Puerto Rico. Engineers had pronounced the second-largest radio dish in the world to be on the brink of collapse and too dangerous to try to repair. FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020 file photo, provided by the Arecibo Observatory, shows the damage done by a broken cable that supported a metal … At the end it was coming apart so fast it happened while they were inspecting it with the drone!! While engineers had assessed the structure after the first cable failure and replacement parts were on order, the second failure suggested the system could collapse at any time. The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico collapsed Tuesday, ... AFP via Getty Images Key Facts. Then as the platform fell, the support cables also dropped. The main entrance of the Arecibo Observatory is seen in Arecibo, Puerto Rico on Nov. 19, 2020. Arecibo Observatory telescope collapses 00:37. But in the early morning of 1 December 2020, The collapse of the instrument platform on December 1 was not a surprise. No word yet on whether the dish will ever be replaced, but it’s a conversation that’s already starting. Copyright ©2020 AAS Sky Publishing LLC. 4, Yes, I would like to receive emails from Sky & Telescope. Arecibo Observatory staff believe one of the remaining suspension cables broke on 1 December, sending the 900-ton instrument platform crashing into the dish. The Arecibo Observatory collapsed in the early morning hours of Dec. 1. Puerto Rico’s famed Arecibo Observatory telescope collapsed last week, ending an era of world-class research. The Arecibo Observatory, also known as the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), is an observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico owned by the US National Science Foundation (NSF). “[It] should not have failed the way it did,” says Ashley Zauderer (NSF). The collapse follows two cable failures within four months. Image : Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images ( Getty Images ) The full extent of the damage is still being assessed. 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