The National Science Foundation said Tuesday that the ERISBO radio telescope, a destination for astronomers scattered in the mountains of Puerto Rico, has collapsed.
The foundation said the telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform, which was suspended by cables attached to three towers, fell on a 1,000-foot antenna dish overnight.
“The stage unexpectedly collapsed,” said Joshua Chamot, a spokesman for the foundation, who owns the telescope at Arecibo Observatory. Officials said they were assessing the collapse before releasing more details. He did not specify when the platform collapsed or why it collapsed.
“As we move forward, we will look for ways to help the scientific community and maintain our strong relationships with the people of Puerto Rico,” the Foundation said on Twitter.
The foundation Announced on 19 November The telescope had to be torn and thrown down after an auxiliary cable slipped from the socket, leaving a 100-foot gash in the dish below. The observatory is managed by the University of Central Florida.
“The decision comes after the NSF evaluated several assessments by independent engineering companies, including the telescope’s structure at risk of catastrophic failure, and its cables may no longer be able to bear the loads they were designed to support had gone,” The Foundation said last month.
On November 24, the Foundation said engineers noticed more breaks in the wires of the remaining cables attached to one of the towers placed on the platform.
The observatory has served as the pawn of the discovery of foreign civilizations, and astronomers used it to track killer asteroids.
For nearly six decades, the observatory was a well-known resource for radio astronomy and planetary research, and held enormous cultural significance for Puerto Ricans. Many said they were inspired To pursue a career in science and technology by the Observatory.
The telescope placed signals from space and at that location, a capability that made it possible to collect undiscovered details about planets in the solar system, saying Catherine NeishAn Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Western Ontario.
One of its earliest feats, in 1967, was the discovery that the planet Mercury rotates in 59 days, not 88 as astronomers originally thought.
“It was an incredible piece of technology,” Dr. Neesh said.
But after years of storm damage and fiscal periods, questions arose about the future of the observatory.
Puerto Rico residents and astronomers called on the foundation to fix the telescope instead of demolishing it.
Before the Fall, About 60,000 people signed a petition Urged federal agencies to find a way to stabilize the structure.
But Thornton Tomasetti, an engineering company hired by the University of Central Florida to assess the telescope, said another cable failure was too likely to justify repair work.
“While it makes us sad to make this recommendation, we believe that the structure should be demolished as soon as practicable in a controlled manner,” the firm said in a letter to the university and the foundation.
On social media, scientific and Puerto Ricans who remembered visiting the observatory Telescope mourning after collapse
“This is a surprising loss to our science capability,” Justin Kugler, an aerospace engineer, Said on Twitter. “The United States needs to create a plan for a successor radio telescope that builds on Arecibo’s legacy and honors Puerto Rico’s commitment over these many years.”
University of Western Ontario Professor Drs. Neish said that the loss of the telescope is not only devastating, it is also harmful to scientists, who believe that more could have been done to save the foundation.
“It was not inevitable,” she said of the collapse. “If they maintain it properly, it is possible that it would not have happened.”
“It’s such an incredible ending,” she said. “So sad about it.”
Dennis Overby contributed reporting.