A little more than a week ago, we reported that the Arecibo dish at the the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico was to be demolished as the main cable that supported the Arecibo Observatory broke. The plan would take weeks to develop, but the National Science Foundation (NSF) has reported that the observatory had already collapsed.
“No injuries were reported as a result of the collapse. The U.S. National Science Foundation ordered the area around the telescope to be cleared of unauthorised personnel since the failure of a cable on 6 November,” wrote the NSF.
Pictures of Arecibo surfaced online and made rounds on social media platforms like Twitter. It showed that the massive 900-ton platform normally suspended above the observatory was no longer there.
“We knew this was a possibility, but it is still heartbreaking to see,” says Elizabeth Klonoff, University of Central Florida’s (UCF) vice president for research.
The Arecibo Observatory helped make significant contributions in the areas of atmospheric sciences, planetary sciences, radio astronomy and radar astronomy. After the decision to demolish it was announced, a Puerto Rican scientist launched a petition on Change.org to urge the NSF to repair Arecibo—which currently gained more than 37,000 signatures.
Engineers have arrived on-site, and observatory workers will take “appropriate safety precautions as a full assessment of the site’s safety is underway”. Meanwhile, NSF says it will continue to authorise UCF—which manages the observatory—to pay Arecibo’s staff and the agency to do any remaining research and repairs that it can at the facility.
If the sight of the observatory is familiar to you, you might be thinking of the final scenes of the James bond movie Goldeneye. It was the first James Bond feature film to feature Pierce Brosnan.