Iconic Arecibo Observatory Collapses


The renowned Arecibo Observatory collapsed December 1, after tension between the cable holding the structure finally gave way.

The iconic observatory has been a staple for tourism and space observation. Located in the town of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, it was built in November 1963, designed by William E. Gordan and Thomas Christian Kavanagh.

Important Discoveries made at Arecibo include detecting objects, such as asteroids that come close to earth. The Observatory is also responsible for sending radio signals in hope to contact extraterrestrial life 21,000 light years away.

Meagan Bartels from Space.com said that it was known that the structure would fall in the near future.

Bartels explained that structural failures  “in August and November made the telescope too delicate to safely repair.”

“The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), which owns the site, knew that the structure could fall any time and was evaluating how to go about decommissioning the telescope,” she wrote. “Now, the agency has shifted to evaluating what to do with its wreckage.

Senior Nikhil Sierros has been following the story, including the major role in solar system discoveries it has made the past 57 years.

“The telescope was one of the largest single dish radio telescopes in the world … it aided scientists in their major astronomical discoveries, like playing a key role in discovering the first planet outside of our Solar System,” he said.

“It had been used mainly for radar astronomy and radio astronomy and was a part of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program,” Nikhil continued, “and was used by NASA to detect objects, like asteroids, that came near the Earth.:

As Nikhil pointed out, the telescope sent a radio message to a star cluster called M13 in the hopes that if any life exists 21,000 light years away from us, the aliens will see the message and respond back to us, “even though it will take a lot of time for the message to be received and for us humans to receive any possible response from aliens.”

Nikhil is saddened by the collapse of the observatory, but hopeful for the future.

“It is really sad to see that it collapsed the way it did, with so much history within it, but hopefully scientists in Arecibo, Puerto Rico can construct a new and better telescope to replace this one.”