Before and after images of the Arecibo Observatory show a dramatic collapse that ended an era of space research.
Astronomers mourned the loss of the observatory, which faced natural disasters.
For nearly 60 years, the Arecibo Observatory has made important contributions to astronomy.
The Arecibo Observatory, a legendary radio telescope nestled in the lush mountains of Puerto Rico, has served as a vital vantage point on the cosmos for nearly six decades.
From tracking asteroids to discovering the first planets outside our solar system, Arecibo has made fundamental contributions to our knowledge of space.
The telescope’s observing equipment hung from a suspended platform above a 1,000-foot satellite dish until December 1, 2020. Following a series of series of misfortunes, ranging from earthquakes to hurricanes, the cables supporting this platform gave way, causing the telescope to collapse onto the vast flat below.
Here’s how the telescope is doing two years after its collapse.
The telescope was built in a natural sinkhole northwest of Puerto Rico.
Members of the neighboring communities of Arecibo participated in the construction of the observatory.
The observatory opened in November 1963. It was initially made of wire mesh, which meant you could see through the chasm below.
Arecibo was a workhorse for astronomers.
In 1974, he broadcast the first radio message intended for a foreign audience. The coded message detailed the chemical formulas of the components of DNA, along with simple drawings of a human figure and Arecibo.
It detected the first known exoplanet orbiting a pulsar, or the dense remnants of a collapsed giant radiation-emitting star, in 1992.
The telescope was a movie star thanks to appearances in “GoldenEye” and “Contact.”
The radio telescope had a 1,000-foot-wide aluminum-lined dish that covered 18 acres in northwest Puerto Rico.
Cables helped support a metal platform above the dish.
The receiver was on a 900-ton platform, suspended 450 feet above the dish, on a 304-foot swing arm.
It collapsed in December 2020, after being battered by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and rocked by earthquakes.
Videos of the crash show it started when cables connecting the suspended platform to one of the towers snapped.
There are 19,000 panels remaining on the flat from the original 37,000.
Side-by-side images of the Arecibo Observatory, before and after it collapsed, show dramatic damage that ended an era of space research.
The National Science Foundation recently announced that it will not rebuild Arecibo. The telescope’s legacy, however, will live on.
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