The video below captured the catastrophic failure of a huge radio telescope in Puerto Rico considered to be one of the largest in the world.
The Arecibo Observatory telescope collapsed onto a reflector dish some 450ft (137m) below on Dec 1, after decades of astronomical discoveries.
“I want to express how deeply saddened we are here,” said Ralph Gaume, director of astronomy at the US National Science Foundation (NSF). “And NSF is very thankful that no one was hurt. As you know, safety has always been and continues to be our top priority.”
NSF, which operates the telescope through the University of Central Florida, released that dramatic video during a Zoom update with reporters.
“You can see the platform suspended in the center of the screen, you see off in the distance, just to the left of center, is Tower 4,” said John Abruzzo, a manager at Thornton Tomasetti, an engineering company called in before the collapse to assess the structure.
“You can see, I hope, the cables that go from the top of Tower 4 to the platform. … And so it’s those cables that fail near the tower top first. And once those fail, the platform then loses stability and starts to come down.”
NSF had announced on November 19 it would be decommissioned before the sudden collapse on Thursday, December 1.
The Arecibo Observatory was made up of a fixed 1,000-foot dish antenna built into a natural depression that reflected radio waves or radar beams up to the receiver array suspended 450 feet above by cables stretching from three support towers.
Engineers said it could not be repaired because of the strain on the remaining cables.
“We knew that it was just a matter of time,” said Abruzzo. “And it was a very dangerous and precarious situation, because (the remaining cables) could have gone really at any time.”
Check out the video below
Watch the catastrophic collapse of iconic Arecibo Observatory telescope pic.twitter.com/bL7goWE4VD
— Mazech (@Mazech) December 12, 2020