APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Comments and questions about the APOD on the main view screen.
User avatar
APOD Robot
Otto Posterman
Posts: 4198
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2009 3:27 am

APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by APOD Robot » Wed Dec 09, 2020 5:05 am

Image Arecibo Telescope Collapse

Explanation: This was one great scientific instrument. Starting in 1963, the 305-meters across Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico USA reigned as the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world for over 50 years. Among numerous firsts and milestones, data from Arecibo has been used to measure the spin of Mercury, map the surface of Venus, discover the first planets outside of our Solar System, verify the existence of gravitational radiation, search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and, reportedly, locate hidden military radar by tracking their reflections from the Moon. Past its prime and in the process of being decommissioned, the Arecibo Telescope suffered a catastrophic structural collapse early this month, as seen in the featured composite video.

<< Previous APOD This Day in APOD Next APOD >>

FLPhotoCatcher
Science Officer
Posts: 196
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 6:51 am

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by FLPhotoCatcher » Wed Dec 09, 2020 6:37 am

Incredible footage. It's amazing that a drone was inspecting and getting video of the very cables that failed.
Following the link about mapping the surface of Venus, it states that using a telescope in West Virginia together with the Arecibo Telescope, "The new survey will resolve details as fine a one-kilometer across, and will be inspected for changes since the last major radar map was made by NASA's Magellan spacecraft that orbited Venus from 1990 to 1994." Did they ever get resolution that good? Did they find any changes on Venus?

User avatar
XgeoX
Ensign
Posts: 64
Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2020 12:57 pm
AKA: Idiot

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by XgeoX » Wed Dec 09, 2020 8:38 am

This is such a shame, really symbolic of the implosion of Puerto Rico itself. Dollars to doughnuts that it was hidden corrosion that did it in. A tropical, humid climate is hell on machines and maintenance must be diligent.
Anyway I prefer to remember her as in her glory days...
Image
James Bond baby!

Eric

Evenstar
Ensign
Posts: 37
Joined: Sun Mar 28, 2010 6:28 am

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by Evenstar » Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:32 am

The collapse was horrifying to watch and hurt because in 1973/74 when the dish was only 10 years old I was a telescope operator there and consider the job one of my most rewarding experiences. I guess the hardest part of getting the job was living in PR, knowing English and basic math, and looking at the ad in the paper. I jumped on it and it was mine. My biggest event while telescope operating was when Russell Hulse first started discovering new pulsars left and right day after day. I don't know if the binary pulsar was discovered then or after I left. I remember him rolling in his tall rack of receiver and computer equipment and drifting across sections of the sky. I had to leave Arecibo finally because of contracting Tropical Sprue--as bad as it sounds--the day before Carl Sagan visited. I did meet Frank Drake once though who autographed a book that mentioned his name in it, The Listeners, by James E. Gunn, on April 18, 1974. So it was that I returned to Santa Barbara in May, 1974, and all the rest is now history. Arecibo RIPieces. Yes, on occasion I walked all over the structure (where walking was permitted); taught myself some FORTRAN on the CDC3300 main frame but never good with algorithms; built Jon Hagan's frequency counter in QST; did some amateur astronomy with the site's Questar; visited with Sam and Helen Harris (wonderful people) for steak and dancing with some other locals; borrowed from Sam a transceiver, window air conditioner, and variable voltage device to hold the voltage constant in my trailer which was rented from Rip (see end); entered the cave behind (south) of the dish but didn't pass through it after the river reached chest high; along with several others borrowed the directors first ever HP 48(?) LED display calculator one at a time to do our income taxes; explored just about all of PR; and on about the last day got to climb a tower with Rip (David J.) Van Winkle. Thank you--lots of fun reminiscing this place.
<Evenstar>

User avatar
JohnD
Tea Time, Guv! Cheerio!
Posts: 1334
Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2005 2:11 pm
Location: Lancaster, England

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by JohnD » Wed Dec 09, 2020 10:37 am

How was this allowed to happen??
I don't understand the political position of Puerto Rico, it's a 'territory' (not a state) of the US! But part of the US, not some poverty-stricken third world country! And the US allows a prime astronomy instrument to fall apart? What???

The UK's Jodrell Bank now has many other dishes, but the original Mark 1, now Lovell, telescope is up and running, despite being nearly ten years older than the Arecibo!
John

User avatar
orin stepanek
Plutopian
Posts: 6030
Joined: Wed Jul 27, 2005 3:41 pm
Location: Nebraska

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by orin stepanek » Wed Dec 09, 2020 12:36 pm

Since the plans were to decommission the telescope; what was it's future to be? :?
Orin

Smile today; tomorrow's another day!

Leon1949Green

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by Leon1949Green » Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:11 pm

My very heartfelt condolences to the astronomy community and all who love its work for so many years displayed here and on other sites. RIP Arecibo Telescope. :cry:

User avatar
JohnD
Tea Time, Guv! Cheerio!
Posts: 1334
Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2005 2:11 pm
Location: Lancaster, England

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by JohnD » Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:55 pm

You're all so laid-back! I'm not an astronomer, and I'm furious!
Why isn't there a campaign to know the guilty party that so neglected the instrument?
John

User avatar
Chris Peterson
Abominable Snowman
Posts: 15632
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Guffey, Colorado, USA

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by Chris Peterson » Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:09 pm

JohnD wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:55 pm
You're all so laid-back! I'm not an astronomer, and I'm furious!
Why isn't there a campaign to know the guilty party that so neglected the instrument?
John
The "guilty party" is years of underfunding by different agencies. This instrument has been a target for defunding and decommission for many years. It's been limping along on borrowed time for a long time now. The catastrophic failure likely just accelerated what was going to happen anyway, for reasons having nothing to do with its physical condition.
Chris

*****************************************
Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com

Eclectic Man
Ensign
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 8:46 pm

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by Eclectic Man » Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:10 pm

I wonder if it is now safe for the dish to be dismantled? I expect that several science and engineering museums around the world would like some of it for their exhibitions on both engineering and astronomy. And maybe also the James Bond Museum in Keswick, UK.

The end of an era.

User avatar
JohnD
Tea Time, Guv! Cheerio!
Posts: 1334
Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2005 2:11 pm
Location: Lancaster, England

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by JohnD » Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:28 pm

Eclectic, The antenna is a pile of scrap, having fallen 200 feet into the dish, and the dish is just concrete with metal netting (?) over it. What's to exhibit?
Chris, that video implies that they knew it was about to happen, the nearness of the drone caused it, or it was caused just at the moment by an other agent, which is disgusting, a snuff movie. If astronomers are laid-back about its loss, then I'll pipe down. What will replace it?

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 17834
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by neufer » Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:51 pm

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Chris Peterson wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:09 pm
JohnD wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:55 pm

You're all so laid-back! I'm not an astronomer, and I'm furious! Why isn't there a campaign to know the guilty party that so neglected the instrument?
The "guilty party" is years of underfunding by different agencies. This instrument has been a target for defunding and decommission for many years. It's been limping along on borrowed time for a long time now. The catastrophic failure likely just accelerated what was going to happen anyway, for reasons having nothing to do with its physical condition.
:arrow: The catastrophic presidency likely just accelerated what was going to happen anyway.
Art Neuendorffer

User avatar
johnnydeep
Science Officer
Posts: 432
Joined: Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:57 pm

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by johnnydeep » Wed Dec 09, 2020 5:15 pm

JohnD wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:28 pm
Eclectic, The antenna is a pile of scrap, having fallen 200 feet into the dish, and the dish is just concrete with metal netting (?) over it. What's to exhibit?
Chris, that video implies that they knew it was about to happen, the nearness of the drone caused it, or it was caused just at the moment by an other agent, which is disgusting, a snuff movie. If astronomers are laid-back about its loss, then I'll pipe down. What will replace it?
I was wondering about the suspiciously coincidental drone filming at just the right time. But I really doubt the collapse was deliberately caused in order to be filmed. Then again, if it was deemed a danger perhaps it was deliberate, like when a condemned building is imploded for safety reasons. I have not seen anything written one way or the other.
"To Boldly Go......Beyond The Fields We Know."

User avatar
johnnydeep
Science Officer
Posts: 432
Joined: Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:57 pm

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by johnnydeep » Wed Dec 09, 2020 5:21 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:09 pm
JohnD wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:55 pm
You're all so laid-back! I'm not an astronomer, and I'm furious!
Why isn't there a campaign to know the guilty party that so neglected the instrument?
John
The "guilty party" is years of underfunding by different agencies. This instrument has been a target for defunding and decommission for many years. It's been limping along on borrowed time for a long time now. The catastrophic failure likely just accelerated what was going to happen anyway, for reasons having nothing to do with its physical condition.
I wish one or more of America's billionaires would contribute their money to rebuild it. I'm specifically looking at you Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Laurene Powell Jobs. Warren Buffet too, but I don't think he's much into high tech pursuits. It would amount to pocket change for all of them.
"To Boldly Go......Beyond The Fields We Know."

User avatar
Chris Peterson
Abominable Snowman
Posts: 15632
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Guffey, Colorado, USA

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by Chris Peterson » Wed Dec 09, 2020 5:48 pm

JohnD wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:28 pm
Eclectic, The antenna is a pile of scrap, having fallen 200 feet into the dish, and the dish is just concrete with metal netting (?) over it. What's to exhibit?
Chris, that video implies that they knew it was about to happen, the nearness of the drone caused it, or it was caused just at the moment by an other agent, which is disgusting, a snuff movie. If astronomers are laid-back about its loss, then I'll pipe down. What will replace it?
I sincerely doubt that the drone had anything to do with it, or that the collapse was deliberate.

I wouldn't say that astronomers are "laid-back". Its loss is unfortunate. Most astronomers are sad to see it go. But most haven't been holding out much hope for its economic rescue, either.
Chris

*****************************************
Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com

User avatar
RJN
Baffled Boffin
Posts: 1587
Joined: Sat Jul 24, 2004 1:58 pm
Location: Michigan Tech

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by RJN » Wed Dec 09, 2020 6:51 pm

In response to an email making the point that the Arecibo Telescope was quite productive and useful even earlier this year, I have removed the words "Past its prime" from the main NASA APOD. We apologize for the characterization. - RJN

User avatar
Chris Peterson
Abominable Snowman
Posts: 15632
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Guffey, Colorado, USA

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by Chris Peterson » Wed Dec 09, 2020 7:08 pm

RJN wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 6:51 pm
In response to an email making the point that the Arecibo Telescope was quite productive and useful even earlier this year, I have removed the words "Past its prime" from the main NASA APOD. We apologize for the characterization. - RJN
To be fair, the characterization wasn't all that inaccurate. Many instruments continue to be productive well past their prime. (Not to mention people!)

But yeah, the phrase is likely to be misunderstood, and the caption is probably better without it.
Chris

*****************************************
Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 17834
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by neufer » Wed Dec 09, 2020 7:40 pm

  • The GSSR stands alone
    The GSSR stands alone
    Hi-ho, the derry-o…
    The GSSR stands alone:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldstone_Solar_System_Radar wrote:
<<The Goldstone Solar System Radar (GSSR) is a large radar system used for investigating objects in the Solar system. Located in the desert near Barstow, California, it comprises a 500-kW X-band (8500 MHz) transmitter and a low-noise receiver on the 70-m DSS 14 antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex. It has been used to investigate Mercury, Venus, Mars, the asteroids, and moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The most comparable facility was the radar at Arecibo Observatory, until that facility collapsed. GSSR now stands alone.

GSSR can work in two different modes. In the monostatic radar mode, GSSR both transmits and receives. In bistatic mode, GSSR transmits and other radio astronomy facilities receive. Although more difficult to schedule, this offers two advantages - the transmitter does not need to turn off to allow the receiver to listen, and it allows the use of interferometry to extract more information from the reflected signal.

Bodies that have been investigated using GSSR include:
  • Mercury: In particular, by watching specific reflected features of Mercury sweep across the Earth's surface (using spatially separated receivers), GSSR enables the pole position to be computed quite accurately. The measured librations show Mercury has a liquid core.

    Venus

    Mars: GSSR was used extensively to characterize sites for Mars landers.

    Asteroids: Asteroids appear only as unresolved points of light in ground-based optical telescopes. Radar, however, can image near-Earth asteroids and comets with a resolution of several meters. For example, the asteroid 4179 Toutatis was imaged in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. Although spacecraft such as Dawn can image particular asteroids in much finer detail, radar astronomy can investigate many more asteroids of different characteristics. For example, all existing images of binary asteroids were obtained through radar astronomy.

    Moons of Jupiter

    Rings and moons of Saturn>>
Art Neuendorffer

heehaw

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by heehaw » Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:51 pm

Evenstar wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:32 am
The collapse was horrifying to watch ...
Yep! I walked on that catwalk! Wheeeee! Sic transit gloria!

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 17834
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by neufer » Wed Dec 09, 2020 11:41 pm

heehaw wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:51 pm
Evenstar wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 9:32 am

The collapse was horrifying to watch ...
Yep! I walked on that catwalk! Wheeeee! Sic transit gloria!
Both you and Gloria crossed the catwalk together :?:
Art Neuendorffer

ol1bit
Asternaut
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 3:26 pm

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by ol1bit » Thu Dec 10, 2020 12:48 am

I wonder how many of these majestic Instruments will degrade to unusably as time goes on?

This was a sad day. :-(

User avatar
MarkBour
Subtle Signal
Posts: 1131
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2013 2:44 pm
Location: Illinois, USA

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by MarkBour » Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:50 am

Chris Peterson wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 5:48 pm
JohnD wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:28 pm
Eclectic, The antenna is a pile of scrap, having fallen 200 feet into the dish, and the dish is just concrete with metal netting (?) over it. What's to exhibit?
Chris, that video implies that they knew it was about to happen, the nearness of the drone caused it, or it was caused just at the moment by an other agent, which is disgusting, a snuff movie. If astronomers are laid-back about its loss, then I'll pipe down. What will replace it?
I sincerely doubt that the drone had anything to do with it, or that the collapse was deliberate.

I wouldn't say that astronomers are "laid-back". Its loss is unfortunate. Most astronomers are sad to see it go. But most haven't been holding out much hope for its economic rescue, either.
The drone watching the failure did not cause any trouble.
The collapse was not caused by any deliberate action.
The drone was watching those cables because the NSF knew what was going to happen sooner or later:
From https://www.space.com/arecibo-observato ... evaluation
The iconic structure in Puerto Rico collapsed on Dec. 1 after cable failures in August and November made the telescope too delicate to safely repair. The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), which owns the site, knew that the structure could fall any time and was evaluating how to go about decommissioning the telescope. Now, the agency has shifted to evaluating what to do with its wreckage.
So, as a person with no knowledge of the fantastic engineering it took to suspend that giant structure 200 feet off the ground, I'm wondering: How were they able to raise that structure and suspend it with cables like that, but were unable to lower it? I'd love to see if there is an archived description of the original construction project. The Aricebo Telescope was one of the wonders of the modern world.
Mark Goldfain

Evenstar
Ensign
Posts: 37
Joined: Sun Mar 28, 2010 6:28 am

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09).

Post by Evenstar » Thu Dec 10, 2020 5:27 am

ol1bit wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 12:48 am
I wonder how many of these majestic Instruments will degrade to unusably as time goes on?

This was a sad day. :-(
I call it entropy not knowing for certain that is scientifically correct. Everything in the universe including life degrades to... falling apart to... "unusable" as "time goes by" even if repaired and is no longer useful. The Chinese have a larger spherical dish now than Arecibo ever could build unless somewhere is found a larger sink hole in karst country. Not certain I've read if it is operational yet. I don't imagine it is an oversight on their part but there is no radar capability. It will wear out slowly and as surely as Arecibo has as time goes by too. Excuse me...I'm going to go wear out a little now myself. Got to make room for the new scientists and their new tools of discovery. I wish I was still useful somehow to science but I haven't been "repaired".
<Evenstar>

User avatar
JohnD
Tea Time, Guv! Cheerio!
Posts: 1334
Joined: Wed Feb 16, 2005 2:11 pm
Location: Lancaster, England

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by JohnD » Thu Dec 10, 2020 12:16 pm

MarkBour,
It would have been built in the same way that a suspension bridge is built. Erect the towers, string the cables, then put the roadway, or in this case the receiving antenna housing on the cables. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYWPuQJ ... nnel=Spark

Evenstar,
A hole in the ground doesn't wear out. But cables and other parts do. "Maintenance" is Man's way of reversing entropy, at some cost, which clearly someone wasn't willing to pay at Arecibo. Bridges do wear out and the Ponte Morandi in Genoa was an awful reminder of Man's hubris! Not only was it named after the designer, Riccardo Morandi, but he said that it didn't need maintenance, because the cables were enclosed in concrete and wouldn't rust!!! Then this (actual video and simulation) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS0uhrU ... nel=arkviz

User avatar
XgeoX
Ensign
Posts: 64
Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2020 12:57 pm
AKA: Idiot

Re: APOD: Arecibo Telescope Collapse (2020 Dec 09)

Post by XgeoX » Thu Dec 10, 2020 12:57 pm

neufer wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:51 pm
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Chris Peterson wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 3:09 pm
JohnD wrote:
Wed Dec 09, 2020 2:55 pm

You're all so laid-back! I'm not an astronomer, and I'm furious! Why isn't there a campaign to know the guilty party that so neglected the instrument?
The "guilty party" is years of underfunding by different agencies. This instrument has been a target for defunding and decommission for many years. It's been limping along on borrowed time for a long time now. The catastrophic failure likely just accelerated what was going to happen anyway, for reasons having nothing to do with its physical condition.
:arrow: The catastrophic presidency likely just accelerated what was going to happen anyway.
Trump accelerated the collapse?