At the right place at the right time
A drone footage of the collapse of the Arecibo observatory was taken on December 1 and shows the exact moment one of the main cables broke, causing the huge 900-tonne structure to fall onto the observatory’s 304.8-meter dish. The destruction was filmed by one of the cameras of the Arecibo Operations Control Center, as well as by an unmanned aerial vehicle that flew over one of the towers at the moment when the first cable broke and the structure began to collapse.
The Arecibo Observatory has rapidly deteriorated over the past couple of weeks, and the NSF has been conducting hourly missions to monitor the structure using drones. “I think we were just lucky, plus everything else, the drone operator turned out to be a professional in his field and was able to not only notice what was happening, but also quickly navigate in control and filming,” said Ashley Sauderer, NSF Program Manager at the Arecibo Observatory during a press conference .
The collapse of the platform was not entirely unexpected, as two other cables had already failed in August and November. The engineers concluded that there was no safe way to repair and restore the plant. Following the collapse, the engineering team began the planned site cleanup, upon completion of which they will conduct a full environmental and safety assessment of the remaining portions of the Arecibo observatory. It is known that the possibility of replacing the installation is under consideration, but at the moment it is not clear whether this will happen.