Arecibo Telescope Collapses Today Before It Could Be Dismantled By Contractors

A few weeks ago, Nextbigfuture noted the plan to dismantle the Arecibo Telescope after some wires and small sections of the telescope failed. However, the vast majority of the Arecibo telescope has collapsed. The various towers and cables are now mostly down.

Ada Monzon has a photo where the dust is still settling.

The entire receiver and support structures collapsed.

SOURCES – Scott Manley, Noticel, UniverseToday, Ada Monzon
Written by Brian Wang,

21 thoughts on “Arecibo Telescope Collapses Today Before It Could Be Dismantled By Contractors”

  1. Worked there a while back. Shame to see things allowed to fall apart. P.R. engineering not what it used to be. Shame Cornell.

  2. I manage a scientific research facility, and it's my job to check the operational status of equipment, book regular maintenance and repairs and train users.

    I don't know the exact structure for astronomy funding, but in my experience this is a standard setup for any expensive research equipment, and research councils provide mechanisms to fund the provision of an equipment manager and funding for ongoing maintenance. If researchers from external institutions need to use the equipment, they must pay an hourly rate which contributes towards ongoing maintenance and technical support.

    Not doing this is unconscionable. If funding is being awarded to researchers, this is almost always the case in my experience, and the researchers themselves seldom take responsibility for repairs and maintenance, they just expect it to "work".

    The problems arise when poorly funded researchers are allowed access to the equipment and there is no income for maintenance, or if maintenance is no longer available for the equipment due to obsolescence.

    So there are questions to be answered: Was this equipment at end of life and due to be decomissioned at the first expensive failure anyway?

    Or has there been some terrible misconduct in the maintenance of the equipment?

    These things do not just "fall apart" for no reason.

  3. If it is a section of a sphere it will still be garbage…just garbage longer. There can be no focus because there is no focal point. We need to move on and build something better.

  4. Yeah, there's nothing better than having your own rear on the line to motivate you.

    But the problem of having things that fall between the cracks of individual responsibilities remains.

    I don't believe it's an unsolvable problem. In fact I think any actual space habitats will need to be privately owned with the inhabitants as co-owners, and they could ensure it doesn't fall into disrepair. A company or owner with a stake on keeping the habitat viable will ensure it remains so.

    It's that or having another kind of will and surveillance behind the maintenance, probably by future AIs that will eventually be developed to watch over everything and ensure things are maintained. But this is of course science fiction as of now.

  5. The difference is that the people in the space habitat who would be responsible for maintenance would have a very good incentive not to skimp on it, any more than normal bureaucrats have any incentive to skimp on payroll processing…

  6. It wasn't a parabola, but a sphere, exactly so that the focus could move by moving the Gregorian apparatus. If memory serves, it could move by ±20° and focus anywhere within that cone.

  7. Having a maintenance plan for all of your equipment is important. And 90% of that plan should be inspecting for evidence of wear before the problem gets critical.

    Money was probably a cause too. Not sure about the scientific community, but in the military the only budget that gets cut faster than maintenance is training.

  8. Worthless. It would be way out of focus. There is only one focal point in a parabola. The dish is stationary. It may as well be a 20 foot dish after you are a handful of degrees off.
    Only thing it was good for is showing up in the movies.

  9. Probably suffering from a bureaucratic mindset, where the institution is there to keep the lights on, the coffee machines working and them paid and fed, but the rest is not their problem.

    Without persons actually worrying about the nitty gritty of running a big science machine, the big machine will eventually break down.

    Edit: by the way, I think this same behavior will be a great challenge for any long term space habitat, which are in a sense big science machines, requiring continuous maintenance, and require that people avoid neglecting them.

  10. The sad part is that the science community demonstrated, YET AGAIN, that they have almost no ability to perform emergency-response repairs and systems modifications.  Likely, because the chain-of-responsibility to keep-and-maintain the various supporting equipment was allowed to fall thru the cracks of 'insufficient budget this year'.  

    For want of a screw, the ship was sunk.  

    The Green Bank telescope, another ginormous steerable radio telescope almost suffered the same fate, except for a physicist that was disturbed by the 'weird noise' coming from one of the gimbal motors during a modest wind storm.  His unapproved investigation showed a key bearing nearly sheared, which if had happened during a real blow, would have destroyed the whole telescope.  

    Working with the nearly retired team of mechanists, they contrived to create a new gimbal bearing; a few days later it was installed.  A week later, and the 'big blow' came. No more than a bit or creaking in the old Girl, and she's still working, last I heard. 

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  11. It could send radar??, not just look at stuff. In Space, the focal length of the dish can be much longer, if that would help, as the stuff at the focus does not have to be suspended against g, it can be *higher* off the mirror. A lot less stuff! Plenty of Space Solar Power. No need to correct for Earth rotation, yet can still point. I'm assuming phased array is limited in frequency, smooth dish looks pretty. Gravity su . . . .

  12. It was movable. The antenna was on a cable gantry. I'm not sure how many degrees it could pan across, but it did have panning capabilities.

  13. It never was a movable telescope and thus had very limited utility. It was mostly a, mine-is-bigger-than-yours, stupidity. Mobile telescopes can stay fixed on something rather than being perpetually slung across the sky from the rotation of the Earth.
    It should be possible to make a big radio telescope that is a boat. Just a big floating dish that can move say 15 degrees via cables attached to the lake bed (or towers) that can be released or retracted. Then it could track an object for nearly 2 hours (15 degrees one way to the other). The water could provide part of the support of the dish. You would want it in a lake with minimal waves. Possible to add some active wave suppression or have the dish floating in another more rigid submerged dish with that dish blocking the waves but probably overkill. There was a lake I know that already had towers, but they were demolished. Would have been a great location:

  14. Was anyone underneath when it fell? If not, it WAS 'dismantled safely'.

    Perhaps they'd hoped to do some salvage, though. Probably were some expensive components hanging up there in the air.

  15. A pity, but not completely unexpected.

    Now they can do it anew, larger and better.

    I recall the dish wasn't up to the task of using millimetric waves, and they could make it so now.

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