Newly released footage shows the dramatic final moments of the Arecibo Observatory – the second-largest radio telescope on Earth – which collapsed earlier this week, in yet another major loss for humanity in 2020.
On Tuesday morning at 7.54 am local time, the 900-ton platform at the Arecibo Observatory, which sent and detected radio waves to and from outer space, fell 450 feet (140 meters) and crashed into the 1,000-foot-wide (300-metre-wide) disk below.
Its auxiliary support cables had snapped in August and November, before the final, catastrophic structural failure on Tuesday, when the cables connecting the hanging platform also gave way, pulling down the tops of nearby supporting towers.
Jonathan Friedman, a member of the observatory’s staff, said the collapse sounded like an earthquake or an avalanche. Footage from the scene, captured by one of the control towers, appears to support his assessment.
“As you can see, this was a very violent and kind of unpredictable failure,” Bevin Ashley Zauderer, the National Science Foundation (NSF) program manager for the Arecibo Observatory, told journalists in a briefing on Thursday.
Engineers involved in the deconstruction plans were conducting a remote risk assessment, and inspecting the supporting cables using a drone, at the time of the collapse.
No one had been allowed to approach the structure since mid-November due to the unknown timeline of the impending doom. There were no injuries sustained in the collapse as a result of these precautions.
In 1974, Arecibo sent the Earth’s most powerful broadcast, to see if any aliens might answer the call. It never heard back.
Tuesday’s incident will now greatly curtail humanity’s search for radio waves sent by other lifeforms in the universe, as it will effectively halve our monitoring of such signals coming from outer space.