Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released shocking footage of Collapse of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The video, captured on December 1, shows the moment when the support cables broke, causing the massive 900-ton structure suspended over Arecibo to fall onto the famous 1,000-foot-wide observatory dish.
Videos of the crash were captured by a camera located in the Arecibo Operations Control Center, as well as from a drone that was located above the platform at the time of the crash. The drone operator was able to set the drone’s camera as soon as the platform began to fall and capture the moment of impact. The NSF, which oversees Arecibo, has been monitoring the observatory hourly with drones, ever since He warned that the structure was on the verge of collapse in November. “I think we were very lucky and the drone operator was very adept at seeing what was going on and being able to flip the camera,” Ashley Zudderer, NSF Program Manager at the Arecibo Observatory, said during a press conference.
The footage highlights the moment when several cables snapped, causing the platform to swing out and hit the side of the plate. The collapse also brought down the tops of the three support towers surrounding Arecibo, with cables attached to keep the platform in the air. “The cables going from the top of Tower 4 to the platform – they’re very lackluster on camera view but they are,” said John Abruzzo, contractor at engineering consultancy Thornton Tomasetti. Leased by the University of Central Florida. Describing the first video from the control center, Abruzzo said, “So these cables get stuck near the top of the tower first, and then as soon as these cables fail, the platform loses stability and begins to descend.”
Arecibo’s collapse was not a surprise. After two support cables fail in both August and November, engineers concluded that there was no safe way to repair the Arecibo and that the platform could fall onto the saucer at any point. NSF hopes to do controlled demolition of the telescope before this happens, but the collapse did happen before any kind of action could happen.
NSF is now trying to figure out a pathway going, which is mostly all about figuring out how to clean Arecibo in a safe way. Engineers need to carry out a complete environmental assessment of the area and see how stable the remaining structures are.
Replacing Arecibo will be a much longer process, involving decisions from lawmakers. “In terms of replacement, NSF has a well-defined process to fund and construct large-scale infrastructure – including telescopes,” said Ralph Guillaume, director of the NSF’s Department of Astronomy.And the He said. “It’s a multi-year process that includes appropriations from Congress and an assessment and needs of the scientific community. So it’s too early to comment on a replacement.”