top of page

The Arecibo Observatory as seen from space, after clean-up of its tragic collapse.

Satellite pictures indicate the iconic observatory's remnant.

This satellite image captured February 23, 2021, shows the Puerto Rico Arecibo Observatory, which crashed in December 2020. (Image credit:© 2021 Maxar Technologies, Satellite image)

The sad work is underway to dismantle the remains of the Puerto Rico Arecibo Observatory.

Fresh Maxar Technologies satellite images from 23 February show the work crew that, after a telescope collapsed on 1 December 2020, removes part of the building and clears the ground.

Arecibo's status has not been updated on Twitter or its press releases by the National Science Foundation (that stewards of the telescopic since the 1970s). However, in November it announced that the famous observatory had been decommissioned due to hurricane and cable damage that was considered too harmful to be repaired. There's no surprise with the new photos.

A close-up of the satellite photo shows that cleanup crews work to disassemble the Observatory of Arecibo. (Image credit: © 2021 Maxar Technologies, Satellite image)

In images and video, the collapse was shown by the 900-ton platform that hung over the radio platform at 8:00 am local time, suddenly dropped at 450 feet (140 metres) into the structure below. In the midst of cleanup, a preliminary investigation is underway. A first Jan. 21 Update by NSF suggested that cable production errors might have contributed to the collapse.

Ashley Zauderer, programme director of the Arecibo Observatory at the NSF, said at the 237th conference of the American Astronomical Society during a virtual town hall event, held separately on January 11, "At the NSF we are extremely grateful that safety areas were adequate and that no one had been physically harmed.

"I say 'physically hurt' because we want to make it clear that it was a highly traumatic event that affected a large number of people," added Dr. Zauderer. "Much hurt there."

The astronomical achievements of the telescope are vast but include scanning asteroids close to the earth and examining exoplanets. The general public also knew about Arecibo's work in the 1990s via science fiction films such as 'Goldeneye.' The alien-focused 'Contact' starred in a young Matthew McConaughey decades before its better-known 'Interstellar' space flick (2014).

The location in Puerto Rico of Arecibo brought tourism and scientific employment to the island in connection with the work of the telescope. A recent Astronomy magazine editorial suggests that the company should contribute Arecibo parts to a fund for education and outreach in its former facility (in the context of a growing global space memorabilia market).


Sources, Maxar Technologies, and Mdx Media.

98 views0 comments


bottom of page