Adios, Arecibo!

Looks like the Arecibo radio telescope (for a long time the largest in the world), slated for de-funding by the National Science Foundation, collapsed yesterday morning. Consistent with the reason for defunding (unsafe to repair, etc.), the instrument platform that was suspended over the huge dish built into a natural sink hole fell onto the dish and destroyed it. As predicted, it is now certainly beyond repair.

The scope was well known by its appearances in films such as Contact and Golden Eye, but less known for its achievements, which included mapping hydrogen gas in the Galaxy, searching for alien signals (which it did not find, by the way!), and analyzing the makeup of comets . One of its last findings was a moon orbiting a near Earth asteroid.

Unfortunately, unlike the Green Bank telescope that collapsed in the 1980’s, there does not seem to be enough political will to swoop in with a new project for the facility? Perhaps that is to come….

The area of the telescope is remote and the roads in the area are winding. There may not be very much more opportunity for the Arecibo workers in that areas if that facility goes away. The visitors center is expected to stay open for a while though, but with a giant scope to see, that may not last long.

For more about Physics and Astronomy and Science Fiction, read The Physics and Astronomy of Science Fiction by Steven D. Bloom (I am he and he is me). It is available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble in electronic or paper back form, or you can order from the publisher, McFarland.


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