Monday, November 23, 2020

Arecibo Going Dark

After more than a half-century of supporting breakthrough scientific work -- and providing a scenic backdrop for Contact, GoldenEye and other blockbuster Hollywood films -- the iconic Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is going dark.

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), which owns the observatory, announced on November 19 that it will begin the process of planning for "controlled decommissioning" of the 305-meter telescope.  Over the past several months the instrument has suffered two catastrophic failures of cables that support its 900-ton (817-metric-ton) central receiving platform.

"This decision is intended to preserve life and safety of people and prevent the loss of the entire Arecibo Observatory, including the visitor education center, in the event of an unexpected and uncontrolled collapse," said Sean Jones, assistant director of the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the NSF, during a press conference.  "This decision is not an easy one for NSF to make. But safety of people is our number-one priority."

-- Leonard David, Arecibo Observatory to Close Its Giant Eye on the Sky, Scientific American, 20 November 2020

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