Arecibo Observatory’s telescope collapses after multiple cable failures
Arecibo has made a range of discoveries since 1963
On Tuesday, December 1, Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory’s telescope, up until that point the world’s second-largest radio telescope, collapsed in a shower of metal and wires. The enormous platform that is suspended over the disc collapsed taking the entire structure with it.
Arecibo Observatory as it collapsed ☹️
(Credit: Arecibo Observatory, US National Science Foundation) pic.twitter.com/sTVIRyqxPf
— World and Science (@WorldAndScience) December 9, 2020
The telescope sat on top of the platform which was suspended 137 metres in the air and was a huge 305m in diameter. The platform, which collapsed at approximately 2pm local time on December 1, weighed and extreme 900 tonnes.
Here's the view from a drone at the top of one of the Arecibo towers that was monitoring the condition of the support cables: pic.twitter.com/VOcZEWQ6wK
— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) December 3, 2020
The collapse occurred after two of the cables which supported and held the structure in place, failed. The first failed in August with the second failing in November. The failure of the second cable made the structure too unsafe to repair and it subsequently collapsed.
According to Space.com, “It took 17 seconds for Arecibo Observatory’s massive radio telescope to crumble,”
Throughout it’s time since it was launched in 1963, the Arecibo Observatory’s telescope has made almost too many astonishing achievements to mention however here are some of the telescopes most awesome endeavours.
- Ice on Mercury
Whilst it is thought that it would be unlikely to find water or ice on Mercury due to it close proximity, in the early 1990s Arecibo observed areas of ice at the extreme poles of Mercury that lay in regions of permanent shadow.
- Making Venus Visible
Venus is encased in thick layer of cloud making it difficult to view the surface in any detail however in the 1970s, Arecibo’s radar vision got the first large-scale views of Venus’ surface as its radar was able to cut through the haze and show researchers a clear picture of the surface.
- Radio Broadcast
Arecibo broadcast the first radio signals into space in November 1974. The message was sent with the aim of communicating with Alien life should it be out there and listening. The radio signal, which was focused at a cluster of 300,000 stars included binary code which included details of the chemical formulas for components of DNA, a stick figure sketch of a human, a schematic of the solar system and other scientific data.
- Planets orbiting Pulsars
Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron star that emit regular pulses of radio waves. IN 1990 during a period of repair, the Arecibo was stationary, focused on one space in the sky discovering three rock like planets orbiting a pulsar which had not been though possible until then.
- Gravitational Waves
Directly discovered in 2015, evidence of Gravitational Waves and the evidence of ripples in spacetime were actually recorded in 1974 by Arecibo.
The Arecibo Observatory’s telescope has also had specific scientific and cultural impacts on our society and many of those who have been influenced by it moving onto substantial careers. It has featured in many films and stood as a bastion of scientific achievement in society. Its collapse leaves only one large scale telescope of this magnitude left in the worlds, situated in China.
Numerous people took to social media to console its loss to science with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taking to Twitter to say, “Heartbroken at the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory.”
“As a little girl, my parents often brought me on the hike up to the observatory and I would watch with awe at the scientific wonders it had to offer.”
“This is a tragedy.”
Heartbroken at the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory.
As a little girl, my parents often brought me on the hike up to the observatory and I would watch with awe at the scientific wonders it had to offer. 🔭
This is a tragedy. https://t.co/6mMnSWx7xn
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 3, 2020
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“Arecibo Observatory’s telescope collapses leaving only one giant telescope left”
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