Arecibo Observatory brings forward 'controlled demolition' plans by collapsing all by itself

Star of science and celluloid is no more


That's that then. The Arecibo Observatory appears to have been destroyed with the collapse of the platform previously suspended above the giant dish.

Before and after shots of the facility show the triangular platform, which had hung over the dish, is no longer in place.

The pictures tell their own story: it is safe to say that the developments will have finished off the observatory for good. At least in its current guise.

It is an ignoble end for the facility, which has served the scientific community for nearly 60 years, notching up discoveries as well as playing a vital role in the recovery of the SOHO mission at the end of the last century.

The observatory, located in Puerto Rico, had suffered severe damage at the hands of Hurricane Maria in 2017 before a cable supporting the 900-ton platform above the dish fell down in August this year, ripping a gash in the panels below.

The dish was further damaged by another failed cable in November and later that month the National Science Foundation (NSF) decided that things had gone beyond the point where repairs could safely be made and decided to demolish the structure.

The plan called for a decommissioning of the observatory followed by a "controlled demolition." The weakened structure appears to have brought things forward somewhat with this morning's collapse, which will have come as a body-blow to those hoping for a miraculous rescue for the veteran structure.

A spokesperson for the NSF told The Register: "We can confirm the platform fell unexpectedly and that we have reports of no injuries."

Something to be thankful for. However, today remains a sad day indeed for science and radio astronomy. ®


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