The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that the instrument platform of the 305-meter telescope at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico collapsed in on itself at approximately 7:55 a.m. Atlantic Standard Time on 1 December, resulting in damage to the dish and surrounding facilities.
The U.S. National Science Foundation ordered the area around the telescope to be cleared of unauthorized personnel since the failure of a cable in early November. Local authorities will keep the area cordoned off as engineers work to assess the stability of the observatory’s other structures. No injuries were reported as a result of the collapse.
The instrument platform of the 305m telescope at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico fell overnight. No injuries were reported. NSF is working with stakeholders to assess the situation. Our top priority is maintaining safety. NSF will release more details when they are confirmed. pic.twitter.com/Xjbb9hPUgD
— National Science Foundation (@NSF) December 1, 2020
“We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “When engineers advised NSF that the structure was unstable and presented a danger to work teams and Arecibo staff, we took their warnings seriously and continued to emphasize the importance of safety for everyone involved. Our focus is now on assessing the damage, finding ways to restore operations at other parts of the observatory, and working to continue supporting the scientific community, and the people of Puerto Rico.”
Initial findings indicate the top section of all three of the 305-meter telescope’s support towers broke off. As the 900-ton instrument platform fell, the telescope’s support cables also dropped.
Working with the University of Central Florida, which manages the observatory, NSF expects to have environmental assessment workers on-site as early as tomorrow. Workers at the observatory will take appropriate safety precautions as a full assessment of the site’s safety is underway.