Yikes, that’s what a catastrophic collapse looks like

We’ve got two videos of the moment Arecibo broke. It’s intense.


  1. says

    -Yes, Boss?
    -Did you just touch that thing I told you not to touch?
    -Yes Boss.

    This also answer the question of why they didn’t try to repair it. At some point it’s just not possible to fix such a structure safely.

  2. stwriley says

    So, the next question is when (if ever) do we rebuild this invaluable scientific instrument? Maybe we could all get behind a public pressure campaign to get the major private space investors to pony up the cash to rebuild the telescope even better than before. Between them Musk, Bezos, and Branson could probably fund this out of a few months of their income on investments. If they love the idea of human exploration of space so much, maybe they can be prevailed upon to fund something a lot more vital to our understanding than joyrides to Mars or tourist jaunts in orbit.

  3. quotetheunquote says

    Re: stwriley # 9:
    “Don’t be silly,” (I hear Musk et al. saying in my head), “this thing’s never going to send one of my cars into a random orbit beyond Mars, where’s the lulz in that?”

    (Maybe, just maybe, if they give one of them naming rights, and print a big photo of their face on the receiver, one of them might consider it.)

  4. Ridana says

    Was anyone in the bulding below where the top of that support tower snapped off? That would’ve been terrifying!

    I’m surprised to see a helicopter pad right next to the dish. I’d think the winds would add unnecessary stress to the cables over time, as well as be a hazard from the potential crash of a chopper.

  5. says

    Around 2006, as an undergrad I traveled there to take data with a professor at my undergrad university. Using the radar system of the dish we bounced about half a megawatt of radar (it would have been 1 MW but one of the klystrons was down at the time) off of some near earth asteroids to better constrain their orbits, shapes, surface roughness, etc. It was interesting stuff and a great project to introduce a bumbling undergrad physics major to real science.
    Watching that was sad (end of an era.) It was also kinda scary, I went to that platform that collapsed to help cover the non-radar receiver antennas (even the tiny amount of radar power that comes back is more than their ultra sensitive electronics can deal with so they must be covered with metal covers to protect them during radar runs.) I walked on that walkway you can see getting torn apart by the cable swinging that you can see in the first clip… I wouldn’t classify myself as scared of heights, but when I was there is was high enough to give me that tingling feeling. Watching that happen on video I can’t help but imagine what it would have been like if I was up there at the time.
    I remember a tech at Arecibo mentioning that if the temperature ever dropped below ~40 degrees Fahrenheit the thermal contraction of the cables would increase their tension so much they would snap. But apparently you can get that with just lack of maintenance (not entirely surprising I suppose.) Spooky to watch.

  6. says

    Ah, I see the link in my last comment got smooshed. The professor was Michael Shepard of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, my undergraduate alma mater. I always found it somewhat strange that he was in the Geosciences Department instead of Physics and Astronomy… but odd things like that can happen. I see he has moved up to Department Chair now, good on him.

  7. charles says

    stwriley and quotetheunquote
    Maybe crowdfunding (starting with PZ’s readers and Scott Manly followers on youtube) could lead to it being rebuilt.
    Selling naming rights might support maintenance.