UPDATE Friday 4 Dec: Drone footage of the Arecibo Observatory collapse has officially been shared online by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Two videos from different angles put the collapse in complete display.
Cables break off seemingly out of nowhere, the giant telescope swings and sways in slow motion before rapidly gathering speed and disappearing beneath the foliage in the first video. Splinters fly into the air, and debris clouds billow up from below. It's a dismaying image.
The second video is shot from a drone's perspective, higher up above the Observatory. This, more shocking, footage shows exactly when and how the cables burst off of the main section, and you watch in helpless horror as the entire contraption drops away before your eyes.
Watch the incredible, yet heart-wrenching, moments shared via two videos below:
Here's the view from a drone at the top of one of the Arecibo towers that was monitoring the condition of the support cables: pic.twitter.com/VOcZEWQ6wK— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) December 3, 2020
Read on for the original article:
The suspended platform of the 1000-foot (305-meter) telescope in Arecibo Observatory, an icon of astronomy, collapsed in on itself overnight in Puerto Rico, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF).
This catastrophic ending was feared by scientists and engineers to be imminent after multiple cables supporting the platform broke in recent months. The inevitable has now happened, and the 900-ton platform that hung above the radio dish fell 450 feet (140 meters) below around 8 a.m. local time and caused massive damage, as documented with photos online.
Dennis Vazquez via Facebook: He took these pictures of the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory. You can see the debris and the remains of the platform and the Gregorian Dome. pic.twitter.com/xneOGSVFYi— Wilbert Andrés Ruperto (@ruperto1023) December 1, 2020
The platform lost its battle with gravity
Just a few weeks ago, officials had announced that the telescope was to be dismantled amid safety fears. This was the final blow to the famed telescope which has aided astronomical discoveries for 57 years and got its share of hurricanes, storms, and earthquakes. Now, the platform, with its damaged and worn out cables trying to hold it up for months, has lost its battle with gravity.
Here is the view of The Arecibo Observatory. A sad day for science, for Puerto Rico, and for the entire world. We will not rest until we #RebuildAreciboObservatory. Now we will fight faster and stronger. We can’t lose our Observatory forever. @SaveTheAO @NAICobservatory pic.twitter.com/AvCPO2bmbm— Wilbert Andrés Ruperto (@ruperto1023) December 1, 2020
Thankfully, no one was hurt, according to staff at the observatory in Puerto Rico. The NSF said in a statement that an investigation into the platform's fall was ongoing. According to the initial findings, the top sections of all three towers holding up the platform broke away and the structure fell after that, CNN reports.
Ayer fue la última vez que visite esta belleza de lugar. Lamentablemente agonizaba. Aquí imágenes de ayer y hoy. pic.twitter.com/jWuAwtUc1s— Deborah Martorell (@DeborahTiempo) December 1, 2020
This started a chain reaction where the telescope's worn out support cables also fell and caused major damage to Arecibo's nearby learning center.
You can listen to Ángel Vázquez, Telescope Operations Head at Arecibo, explain the collapse down below:
Initial assessments are being made
"Initial findings indicate that the top section of all three of the... telescope's support towers broke off. As the 900-ton instrument platform fell, the telescope's support cables also dropped. Preliminary assessments indicate the observatory's learning center sustained significant damage from falling cables," wrote NSF in statement.
Sethuraman Panchanathan, the director of NSF, said, "We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt. When engineers advised NSF that the structure was unstable and presented a danger to work teams and Arecibo staff, we took their warnings seriously and continued to emphasize the importance of safety for everyone involved. Our focus is now on assessing the damage, finding ways to restore operations at other parts of the observatory, and working to continue supporting the scientific community, and the people of Puerto Rico."
He further added: "Our focus is now on assessing the damage, finding ways to restore operations at other parts of the observatory, and working to continue supporting the scientific community, and the people of Puerto Rico."