Astronomers and Puerto Rican residents mourned the gaze of the universe unexpectedly shutting off overnight

The National Science Foundation said on Tuesday that the formidable Arecibo radio telescope, a destination for astronomers perched in the mountains of Puerto Rico, had collapsed

The foundation said that the receiving platform of 900 tons of the telescope, which was suspended by cables connected to three towers, fell on a satellite dish from 1000 feet at night.

“The platform fell unexpectedly”, said Joshua Chamotte, spokesperson for the foundation that owns the Arecibo Observatory telescope. Officials said they were assessing the collapse before providing more details and did not say when the platform collapsed or why it fell..

«As we move on, we will look for ways to help the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico», the foundation said on Twitter

The foundation announced the 19 November that the telescope was to be demolished after an additional cable slipped out of its socket and left a 100 feet in the dish below The observatory is operated by the University of Central Florida

“The move comes after NXF assessed several assessments by independent engineering firms that found the telescope's frame at risk of catastrophic collapse and its cables may no longer be able to support the loads they were designed for.”, the foundation said last month.

In November, the 24 September, the foundation said engineers noticed more cuts in the remaining cables attached to one of the towers that contained the podium.

The observatory was at the forefront of the search for space civilizations, and astronomers have used it to track killer asteroids.

For nearly six decades, the observatory has been a popular source for radio astronomy and planetary research, and had enormous cultural significance for Puerto Ricans who, according to many, were inspired by the observatory to pursue careers in science and technology

The telescope became entrenched in popular culture and appeared in films such as “Contact” and the James Bond film “Golden Eye”

Catherine Nich, Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Western Ontario, said the telescope was broadcasting signals to and from space, an ability that allowed undiscovered details to be gathered about planets in the solar system.

One of his first exploits, in 1967, was the discovery that the planet Mercury turned in 59 days, no 88 as astronomers originally thought.

Puerto Rican residents and astronomers appealed to the foundation to repair the telescope instead of tearing it down

Before the crash, about 60 1000 people have fallen on petition urging federal agencies to find a way to stabilize the structure.

More Thornton Tomasetti, an engineering firm hired by the University of Central Florida to evaluate the telescope, said the likelihood of another cable failure was too great to warrant repair work

“While it saddens us that this recommendation was made, we believe that the structure should be demolished in a controlled manner as soon as possible”, the company said in a letter to the university and the foundation

On social media, scientists and Puerto Ricans who called to visit the observatory mourned the telescope after the crash.

“It is an incredible loss of our scientific capacity”, said Justin Kugler, aerospace engineer, on Twitter. “The United States must devise a plan for a subsequent radio telescope that builds on Arecibo's legacy and respects Puerto Rico's commitment over those many years.”

Le Dr Nish, professor at the University of Western Ontario, said the loss of the telescope is not only devastating, but also infuriates scientists who believe the foundation could have done more to save him.

She said about the blackout: “It wasn't inevitable” “If they had done it right, that probably wouldn't have happened”

Arecibo Observatory, telescope, radiotélescope, Puerto Rico, observatory

News – California – Collapse of the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/01/science/space/arecibo-telescope-puerto-rico.html

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