Written by Madhav Bahl, grade 8 student
What was the Arecibo Research Observatory?
Arecibo observatory was an observatory in the town of Barrio Esperanza, Arecibo in Puerto Rico ( a group of islands near the United States). It is owned by the US National Science Foundation- UNSF.
What was it used for?
It was an important location for the United States of America and it was used for research on radio astronomy, studying about the atmosphere, radar astronomy, and search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.
Why was the observatory so important?
The observatory was used to study the planets in our solar system. This observatory also produced very detailed radar maps for the surfaces of Mercury and Venus. With the help of this observatory, it was also discovered that Mercury rotated every 59 days instead of 88 days and so did not always show the same face to the Sun. This observatory was also used by Russell Hulse and Joseph H. Taylor Junior who were American astronauts to discover the first binary pulsar. The discovery of the binary pulsar has helped us to determine the sizes of various neutron stars.
What happened to the Arecibo observatory?
The Arecibo observatory collapsed at 8 am local time on 1st December 2020. The observatory is now shut down permanently. There were no casualties in this incident
Why did the Arecibo observatory collapse?
In August and November 2020, two cables supporting a 900-metric-ton platform of scientific instruments above Arecibo’s dish unexpectedly broke. There was a lot of damage after assessing the damage, the National Science Foundation, which funds the observatory announced that the telescope could not be safely repaired and would be torn down soon. But before the telescope could be dismantled the entire instrument platform crashed down into the dish on December 1, 2020. The platform crashed as the cables that had kept the platform of scientific instruments steady and balanced above the dish snapped causing the platform to fall into the dish and leading to the collapse
How will this affect the people of Puerto Rico and other people of the world?
The loss of the observatory which was a very big attraction. It was like losing the Taj Mahal in Agra. The scientists who have put a lot of work will felt more pain than the rest of the people of Puerto Rico. The science that has been affected is massive. This includes Arecibo’s world-leading asteroid studies, the telescope pinged radio waves at near-Earth asteroids to reveal the shape and spin of these threatening space rocks, and many other studies in these fields.
What do the scientists say?
Not having it “will be a big loss”, says Alan Harris, an asteroid scientist in La Canada, California. The biggest setback is that the research that Arecibo could do cannot be done by other observatories like China’s 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) which opened in 2016 and is fairly newer than the Arecibo observatory.
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Image source: https://www.archpaper.com/2020/11/after-catastrophic-failures-arecibo-dish-will-be-demolished/