The National Science Foundation said Tuesday that the giant Arecibo radio telescope, the site of astronomers in the Puerto Rico Mountains, had collapsed.
The 900-ton receiver platform of the telescope, suspended by cables connected to three towers, fell on a 1,000-foot antenna dish overnight, the foundation said.
Joshua Chamot, a spokeswoman for the Foundation, which owns the telescope at the Arecibo Laboratory, said: “The site collapsed unexpectedly. Officials said they would assess the decline before releasing further details. They did not specify when the stage collapsed or why.
“As we move forward, 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.
Foundation Announced November 19th A sub-cable should slip out of its socket and be torn off the telescope after leaving a 100-foot gap in the dish below. The lab is managed by the University of Central Florida.
“This result comes after the NSF evaluated a number of independent engineering companies that found the telescope system at risk of a catastrophic failure, and its cables were no longer capable of carrying loads designed to support them.” The foundation said last month.
On Nov. 24, the foundation said engineers noticed more gaps in the wires of the remaining cables connected to one of the towers that housed the site.
The lab has been at the forefront of the search for alien civilizations, and astronomers have used it to track killer asteroids.
For nearly six decades, this radio station has been a renowned resource for radio and planetary research, and it has given immense cultural importance to the Puerto Ricans. Many said they were inspired By the laboratory to pursue careers in science and technology.
The telescope was able to collect undiscovered information about the planets in the solar system, which transmitted signals from and out of space. Catherine Nish, Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Western Ontario.
One of its earliest successes was in 1967, when it discovered that Mercury rotated in 59 days, not 88, as astronomers first thought.
“It’s an incredible technology,” Dr. Nish said.
But after years of hurricane damage and financial woes, questions arose about the future of the lab.
Puerto Rico residents and astronomers called on the foundation to fix it rather than tear down the telescope.
Before the collapse, Nearly 60,000 people signed a petition Urges federal agencies to find a way to stabilize the structure.
But Thornton Tomacetti, an engineering firm hired by the University of Central Florida to evaluate the telescope, said the chances of another cable failing to justify the repair work were very high.
“Although it is unfortunate for us to make this recommendation, we believe that in practice the structure should be demolished in a controlled manner as much as possible,” the company said in a letter to the university and the foundation.
On social media, scientists and Puerto Ricans recalls a visit to the laboratory Telescope mourning followed the fall
“This is a shocking loss of our scientific ability,” said Justin Kugler, an aerospace engineer. Said on Twitter. “The United States must develop a program for a successor radio telescope that builds Arecibo’s legacy and respects Puerto Rico’s commitment over these many years.”
Dr Nish, a professor at the University of Western Ontario, said the loss of the telescope was not only catastrophic, but also angered scientists who believed the foundation could have done more to save it.
“It’s not inevitable,” he said. “If they had maintained it properly, it would not have happened.”
“It was a disgraceful decision,” he added. “It’s so sad.”
Tennis Overby contributed to the reporting.