Last Tuesday a news item emerged that shocked the scientific community: the Arecibo Observatory collapsed. The original plan of the National Science Foundation (NSF) was to dismantle it, since maintaining its operation represented a risk for those working there. However, it did not even give time to save part of its structure. The damage to the radio telescope was too severe and, unfortunately, it collapsed in the blink of an eye.

Days after such an unfortunate event, the National Science Foundation itself has shared a video that shows us the exact moment of the collapse from two different angles. The first, from a camera located on the ground. Specifically from the control center, which is the place where the workers usually carry out their activities. Curiously, this camera had been installed recently and had only one objective: to record a possible collapse.

The first material is also more surprising, as you can hear the rumble of the collapse. The other angle, which has no audio, allows us to observe the tragedy from above. This second recording comes from a drone whose purpose was to assess the damage to Tower 4 of the Arecibo Observatory. The unmanned aircraft was observing the four cables that support the structure, until one of them breaks completely and the rest cannot support the 900 tons either.

Safety was always a priority

The salvageable part of the event is that no injuries were reported. Weeks ago, NSF created an exclusion zone to ensure the safety of workers. The organization points out that creating a safe area was fundamental in avoiding an even greater tragedy, since the most dangerous structures fell in previously defined places. “The National Science Foundation regrets what happened. As we move forward, we will find ways to help the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico,” they said via Twitter.

Although the NSF was planning to dismantle it, the risk of collapse was always latent. “The telescope is currently at severe risk of an unexpected and uncontrolled collapse,” Ralph Gaume, director of NFS’ Astronomical Sciences division, warned in mid-November. Although it was important for the scientific community to dismantle the Arecibo Observatory, the safety of everyone was always a priority, Gaume said.


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