Famed Arecibo Observatory suffers more damage as 900-ton platform falls

The Arecibo Observatory’s 900-ton platform, long suspended above the telescope dish, has fallen. 


National Science Foundation

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has been a science and pop culture icon for decades. A series of tragic events involving broken cables has now been compounded by an even larger structural failure at the telescope. The observatory’s massive 900-ton platform — which was suspended in the air above the dish — has fallen.

The National Science Foundation announced the overnight collapse on Tuesday. “No injuries were reported. NSF is working with stakeholders to assess the situation. Our top priority is maintaining safety,” the foundation tweeted.

Arecibo’s famous 305-meter (1,000-foot) telescope dish had already suffered extensive damage from the previous broken cables that had been helped to keep the platform suspended. The NSF decided earlier in November to decommission and demolish the telescope due to safety concerns.

Despite the NSF conclusion, over 36,000 scientists and space fans had signed a Change.org petition asking for the telescope to be repaired and preserved for future generations. The platform’s fall makes any chance of saving the telescope even more remote.

While the observatory’s scientific achievements in astronomy are its main legacy, it also starred in the 1995 James Bond movie GoldenEye and appeared in the 1997 Jodie Foster sci-fi movie Contact.

“NSF is saddened by this development,” the foundation tweeted. “As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”

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Giant Puerto Rico radio telescope collapses, following damage

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—A huge, already damaged radio telescope in Puerto Rico that has played a key role in astronomical discoveries for more than half a century completely collapsed on Tuesday.

The telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform fell onto the reflector dish more than 400 feet below.

The U.S. National Science Foundation had earlier announced that the Arecibo Observatory would be closed. An auxiliary cable snapped in August, causing a 100-foot gash on the 1,000-foot-wide (305-meter-wide) reflector dish and damaged the receiver platform that hung above it. Then a main cable broke in early November.

The collapse stunned many scientists who had relied on what was until recently the largest radio telescope in the world.

“It’s a huge loss,” said Carmen Pantoja, an astronomer and professor at the University of Puerto Rico who used the telescope for her doctorate. “It was a chapter of my life.”

Scientists worldwide had been petitioning U.S. officials and others to reverse the NSF’s decision to close the observatory. The NSF said at the time that it intended to eventually reopen the visitor center and restore operations at the observatory’s remaining assets, including its two LIDAR facilities used for upper atmospheric and ionospheric research, including analyzing cloud cover and precipitation data.

The telescope was built in the 1960s with money from the Defense Department amid a push to develop anti-ballistic missile defenses. It had endured hurricanes, tropical humidity and a recent string of earthquakes in its 57 years of operation.

The telescope has been used to track asteroids on a path to Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize and determine if a planet is potentially habitable. It also served as a training ground for graduate students and drew about 90,000 visitors a year.

“I am one of those students who visited it when young and got inspired,” said Abel Méndez, a physics and astrobiology professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo who has used the telescope for research. “The world without the observatory loses, but Puerto Rico loses even more.”

He last used the telescope on Aug. 6, just days before a socket holding the auxiliary cable that snapped failed in what experts believe could be a manufacturing error. The National Science Foundation, which owns the observatory that is managed by the University of Central Florida, said crews who evaluated the structure after the first incident determined that the remaining cables could handle the additional weight.

But on Nov. 6, another cable broke.

A spokesman for the observatory said there would be no immediate comment, and a spokeswoman for the University of Central Florida did not return requests for comment.

Scientists had used the telescope to study pulsars to detect gravitational waves as well as search for neutral hydrogen, which can reveal how certain cosmic structures are formed. About 250 scientists worldwide had been using the observatory when it closed in August, including Méndez, who was studying stars to detect habitable plantes.

“I’m trying to recover,” he said. “I am

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Pyroclasts protect the paintings of Pompeii buried but damage them when they are unearthed

Pyroclasts protect the paintings of Pompeii buried but damage them when they are unearthed
Dr Maite Maguregui of the IBeA group taking measurements in the mural paintings of Pompeii using portable tools. Credit: IBeA / UPV/EHU

A study conducted by the UPV/EHU’s IBeA group shows that pyroclasts may be putting the conservation of the paintings of Pompeii at risk. Specifically, the ions leached from these materials and the underground ion-rich waters from the volcanic rocks may be causing the salts in the paintings to crystallize. In addition, the use of fluorine as a marker is proposed to monitor in situ the extent of the damage sustained by the murals.


The ancient city of Pompeii (in the south of Italy) ended up buried under ash and volcanic material in 79 CE as a consequence of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. That fateful event made the unprecedented conservation of the archeological site in the area possible because the pyroclastic materials spewed out by Vesuvius have protected the remains from external damage. So not only in cultural but also in scientific terms they are in fact highly prized sites where tourists and professionals of archeology and even chemistry mingle.

For over 10 years the UPV/EHU’s IBeA group, attached to the department of Analytical Chemistry, has been working at Pompeii within the framework of the Analytica Pompeiana Universitatis Vasconicae-APUV project. In 2015 the UPV/EHU and the Archeological Park of Pompeii signed the first of the agreements thanks to which the methodologies and portable devices used by the research group are allowing the paintings to be analyzed using non-destructive techniques.

Various studies conducted at the House of Marcus Lucretius, the House of Ariadne and the Casa degli Amorini Dorati or House of the Golden Cupids have concluded that “salts are responsible for the worst and most visible damage to the murals. In the end, the salts may dissolve and as a result material such as pigments, the pictorial layer, the mortar, etc. may be lost,” said Maite Maguregui, lead researcher in this study. In this respect, the researchers have concluded that the leached ions from the pyroclastic materials and the ion-rich underground waters from the volcanic rocks promote the crystallization of certain salts. “While the paintings remain underground, they are protected by the pyroclasts; but once they are brought to the surface, the salts start to form owing to the effect of the air, humidity, etc. So in order to conserve the mural paintings it is important to know in each case what the salt load of the surrounding pyroclasts is to be able to block, reduce or prevent potential damage. In fact, in Pompeii a large proportion remains buried and waiting to be studied,” added Maguregui.

Fluorine marking the impact of the volcanic materials

“When the volcano erupted, it spewed out huge quantities of materials and the pyroclastic material is not homogeneous across the whole area; many different strata can be found,” explained the researcher. Mineralogical analyzes of samples collected at various points were made in the study, and the compositions of the leachates were determined. Thermodynamic modeling

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Falwell Jr sues Liberty University, claims reputation damage

By Sarah Rankin and Elana Schor | Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Jerry Falwell Jr. has sued Liberty University, alleging the evangelical school founded by his late pastor father damaged his reputation in a series of public statements that followed his resignation as president and chancellor in August amid a series of scandals.

The lawsuit filed in Lynchburg Circuit Court on Wednesday includes claims of defamation and breach of contract. It alleges that Liberty officials accepted what Falwell says are false claims about his involvement in an extramarital affair between his wife and a business partner of the couple’s and “moved quickly” to destroy his reputation.

“When Mr. Falwell and his family became the targets of a malicious smear campaign incited by anti-evangelical forces, Liberty University not only accepted the salacious and baseless accusations against the Falwells at face value, but directly participated in the defamation. This action seeks redress for the damage Liberty has caused to the reputation of Mr. Falwell and his family,” the lawsuit says.

K. Todd Swisher, Circuit Court clerk for the city of Lynchburg, provided The Associated Press with a copy of the complaint, which contains a limited number of redactions in sections pertaining to Falwell’s employment agreement. Swisher said there would be a hearing within a week for a judge to consider whether an unredacted version of the complaint should remain sealed.

Liberty spokesman Scott Lamb said the school, which had not yet been served with the lawsuit, would have a formal statement in response later Thursday. The school’s board of trustees has been meeting this week.

An attorney for Falwell did not respond immediately to a telephone message left Thursday, and Falwell did not respond to a voicemail and text seeking comment.

Falwell left Liberty in August after Giancarlo Granda, a younger business partner of the Falwell family, said he had a yearslong sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife, Becki Falwell, and that Jerry Falwell participated in some of the liaisons as a voyeur.

Although the Falwells have acknowledged that Granda and Becki Falwell had an affair, Jerry Falwell has denied any participation. The couple allege that Granda sought to extort them by threatening to reveal the relationship unless he was paid substantial amounts of money.

Before his resignation, Falwell had already been on an indefinite leave of absence after an uproar over a photo he posted on social media of him and his wife’s pregnant assistant, both with their pants unzipped.

Falwell said it was taken in good fun at a costume party during a vacation, but critics saw it as evidence of hypocrisy by the head of an institution that holds students to a strict moral code of conduct.

Shortly after Falwell’s departure, Liberty announced it was opening an independent investigation into his tenure as president, a wide-ranging inquiry that would include financial, real estate and legal matters.

Earlier this month, the school identified Baker Tilly US as the firm handling the investigation and announced the launch of a website to “facilitate

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Jerry Falwell Jr. sues Liberty University over reputation damage

Former Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. filed a lawsuit against the school on Wednesday, accusing it of damaging his reputation after being pressured to resign following a series of scandals. 

Falwell, who left the position he had held for 13 years in August, is accusing the evangelical university founded by his father of defamation and breach of contract.

The lawsuit, filed in state court in Lynchburg, Va., and obtained by local ABC affiliate WSET, says the university violated “legal, contractual, and moral obligations not to defame” Falwell after he said he saved the university from “financial collapse” and made it “the world’s leading evangelical university.”

press release issued Thursday by Quinn Emanuel, a firm representing Falwell, said the former Liberty president is claiming that the university “needlessly injured and damaged his reputation through a series of statements.”

Falwell is accusing Liberty University of accepting claims from former family friend and business partner Giancarlo Granda that Granda had an affair with Falwell’s wife between 2012 and 2018 and that Falwell would watch.

The lawsuit says the university “set out to destroy Mr. Falwell’s reputation through numerous defamatory statements that affirm the outrageous lies of an unstable individual who attempted to extort the Falwells.”

Robert Raskopf, Falwell’s lawyer, said in the release that they attempted to meet with the Liberty University board of trustees executive committee “but were unsuccessful in doing so.”

“Thus, we were forced to seek remedy for Mr. Falwell’s ongoing injuries and damage to his reputation through the Court,” he said.

Falwell released his own statement saying he was “saddened” that Liberty officials “jumped to conclusions about the claims made against my character, failed to properly investigate them, and then damaged my reputation following my forced resignation.”

“While I have nothing but love and appreciation for the Liberty community, and I had hoped to avoid litigation, I must take the necessary steps to restore my reputation and hopefully help repair the damage to the Liberty University brand in the process,” he added. 

Liberty University spokesperson Scott Lamb told The Hill in a statement that “the Board of Trustees are busy at work in session for the next two days for their Fall meetings.”

“The University would need to read and review a lawsuit before making comment, and as of this moment we have not been served,” he said.

In the lawsuit, Falwell goes on to allege that Granda “appears to be supported financially by political opponents of Mr. Falwell in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, likely including the anti-Trump political action committee called The Lincoln Project.” 

The lawsuit cites reports that Kurt Bardella, a senior adviser to The Lincoln Project, was representing Granda pro bono. Falwell, a supporter of President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: ‘I love you back’ Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE

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Jerry Falwell Jr sues Liberty University following resignation for ‘damage to his reputation’

“Close relationship between Trump and Liberty University leader Jerry Falwell Jr described in 2017 interview”

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Jerry Falwell Jr, one of the country’s highest-profile evangelical Christians and a supporter of Donald Trump, has announced that he is suing Liberty University following his resignation as the schools president.

The attorney announced that he would step down as the president of the high profile private Christian university in August following pressure to step down amidst a number of personal scandals.

It has now emerged that Mr Falwell has filed a complaint against the university, which was founded by his father, in state court in Lynchburg, Virginia, alleging that they “damaged his reputation”, NBC News reported. 

“We attempted to meet several times with the Liberty University Board of Trustees Executive Committee but were unsuccessful in doing so,” Falwell’s lawyer Robert Raskopf said in a statement.

“Thus, we were forced to seek remedy for Mr Falwell’s ongoing injuries and damage to his reputation through the Court.”

In a statement, Mr Falwell’s lawyers alleged that their client is being targeted by individuals who appear “to be supported financially by political opponents of Mr Falwell in the midst of a heated presidential campaign.”

They did not offer any specific evidence to support the claim in the statement on Thursday.

The complaint reportedly alleges that Liberty University officials accepted the false claims against Mr Falwell without investigation to force his resignation.

Liberty University did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

The evangelist’s resignation came after a man named Giancarlo Granda went public with claims that he was involved in a years-long sexual relationship involving both Mr Falwell and his wife.

Mr Granda, who met the couple while working as a pool attendant in Miami, told Reuters that the relationship involved him having sex with Becki Falwell while Mr Falwell looked on.

Before the publication of Reuters’ report a lawyer for Jerry Falwell, Michael Bowe, said he “categorically denies everything you indicated you intend to publish about him.”

Mr Falwell released a statement to The Washington Examiner prior to the allegations acknowledging that his wife had an affair with an “ambitious young man” but he stipulated that he was “not involved” in the affair.

The former president alleged that his wife’s ex-lover had continually tried to blackmail his family following the affair with his wife, an accusation which Mr Granada has categorically denied.

Mr Granda told The Examiner: “any allegation of extortion is falsely, defamatory and belied by clear documentary evidence.

At the time, Mr Fallwell had already undertaken an indefinite leave of absence from the university after he was forced to apologise for a photograph he posted on social media with his trousers unzipped and his shirt pulled up over his stomach.

Mr Falwell, who has held positions at the university since 2007 told WLNI that the woman in the photo was pregnant and he was wearing jeans that did not fit. He apologised for posting the image.

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Newly signed law aims to limit the damage from space weather

Space weather like solar flares could seriously disrupt electronics and satellites, and the US government might soon mount a better defense. President Trump has signed the PROSWIFT Act (Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow), a bill that will help to predict space weather and limit the damage when it hits. The newly-minted law orders federal agencies like NASA, NOAA, and the Defense Department to coordinate with private companies to study the potential impact of this weather and spur research for both forecasting and the technology to withstand effects.

The agencies also have to develop a backup for the 25-year-old Solar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite.

The measure was a bipartisan effort sponsored by Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and Michigan senator Gary Peters.

It could take a long time for PROSWIFT to lead to meaningful measures. Politicians believe it could easily be worth the cost, mind you. Gardner pointed to a Lloyds of London estimate that a sever space weather incident could cost up to $2.6 trillion through blackouts, satellite disruptions and air traffic issues. What money the US spends now could reap dividends if the country can bounce back from the Sun’s more extreme behavior with relatively little trouble.

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