An elegy for Arecibo


So air cbo. We've been calling this a post mortem which is pretty depressing. What's the status of the observatory. Now the observatory is still open but its main reason for being which is this enormous radio telescope which three hundred and five meters across is no more. It had a instrument platform suspended above it on cables that collapsed on or december and effectively destroyed the telescope and this is the culmination of a number of structural failures that happened to the telescope in twenty twenty. Yeah that's right. The first bowl broke in august. This was own auxiliary cable which had been added in nineteen ninety-seven when they added new instruments to this platform above the dish. So it needed more support so they added extra cables and it was one of these new ones not one the ones from its original construction which was fifty seven years ago or fifty eight. Now i guess and that cable pulled out of its socket. The soccer is the structure of the end of the cable that allows it to be attached to something and they just pulled out. We surprised everyone. No one expects a cable to fail in that way you went into a suspension while they investigated and ordered new cables to replace. Does hilary cables of which are six and then a second cable broke and then it was already perilous situation and the national science foundation which owns the telescope decided. It was too dangerous. The structure was not safe for people to work on and so they decided to have to be m decommissioned but before that could happen only a couple of weeks off to the second cable broke. More cables broke the whole thing. Came crashing down yeah. There's some kind of striking video of that. They're on the internet taken from a drone. I asked you before the interview if you've ever visited this site and he said no very sad about that now. I'm not going to get a chance to see it you know. It was a very spectacular instrument which was very beloved of astronomers and puerto ricans in particular but also filmmakers. You know it was used in two feature films. And i think the x. files as well used it as a backdrop. I always think of contact. This is such a striking image The way they show it in that movie and this is obviously a platform for a lot of science. What are some of the big accomplishments some of the highlights from astronomy at no. It's an interesting co scoop. Because it was used by lots of different sorts of scientists it was originally designed to be used as a radar instruments to look at the upper atmosphere so would send out pulses of radio waves and then receive the signal that was bounced back off the sphere. Which is upon the upper atmosphere where the air molecules are ionized by the sun. This is the first instance of its use and it wasn't even really for it was more for defense than anything else. The pentagon was looking for ways to track incoming ballistic missiles which you know in the late fifties and sixties was very new issue for them and so they built this telescope to try and understand the ionosphere better to see whether warheads trails that they could track them by. And that didn't really work out. And so it transitioned into being a a scientific facilities so people have continued using it to look at the ionosphere to this day. But they've also used things. Nasa used the radar to track objects in space that are near the up and could be threatening such as asteroids and also to look at other planets. It's been used to map. The surface of venus be seen with a normal telescope because it's surrounded by clouds and it can look far as saturn and then astrophysicists could use it to look at much more distant objects such as pulsars. Which are little dead stars that out a very regular metronome signal in radio waves and gas in galaxies in between the planets and it has a hundred uses and some of which made it very famous. People have won nobel prizes with work that they did. Don't aris the

Coming up next