The Arecibo telescope’s 900-ton platform has crashed into its disk below and destroyed the iconic radio observatory



a close up of a flower garden: This aerial view shows the damage at the Arecibo Observatory after one of the main cables holding the receiver broke in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, on December 1, 2020. Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images


© Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images
This aerial view shows the damage at the Arecibo Observatory after one of the main cables holding the receiver broke in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, on December 1, 2020. Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images

The second-largest radio telescope in the world is no more.

The Arecibo Observatory’s 1,000-foot-diameter telescope collapsed at about 7:55 a.m. Tuesday in Puerto Rico. The telescope’s 900-ton platform, which was suspended 450 feet in the air to send and receive radio waves, crashed into its disk below, pulling down with it the tops of three support towers.

“Friends, it is with deep regret to inform you that the Arecibo Observatory platform has just collapsed,” Deborah Martorell, a meteorologist in Puerto Rico, tweeted in Spanish on Tuesday morning.

Before-and-after images show how the platform fell.

The collapse was not unexpected: Following two cable breaks in August and November, experts determined that the radio telescope was so structurally unsound that it had to be decommissioned.

On November 19, the National Science Foundation, which owned the telescope, tasked engineers with deconstructing it. That was supposed to take about five or six weeks, but the iconic telescope couldn’t last that long.

The foundation published video footage of the collapse on Thursday, captured from a nearby control tower.

 

Nobody was injured in the collapse, the NSF said in a statement, since the area had been cleared after the second cable failure.

“I feel sick in my stomach,” Ramon Lugo, the director of the Florida Space Institute at the University of Central Florida, who managed the telescope, told Science on Tuesday. “Truthfully, it was a lot of hard work by a lot of people trying to restore this facility. It’s disappointing we weren’t successful. It’s really a hard morning.”

‘It’s like losing someone important in your life’



a person walking down a dirt road: The 900-ton platform crashed into the Arecibo telescope's main dish on December 1, 2020. Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images


© Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images
The 900-ton platform crashed into the Arecibo telescope’s main dish on December 1, 2020. Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images

In its 57 years of operation, the Arecibo telescope hunted for hazardous near-Earth asteroids, searched for signs of alien life, and discovered the first planet beyond our solar system.

In 1974, Arecibo beamed the most powerful broadcast Earth has ever sent to communicate with aliens if they’re out there. In 2016, it detected the first repeating fast radio bursts – mysterious space signals that scientists now think come from dead stars.

But Arecibo’s woes began in August, shortly after Tropical Storm Isaias passed over Puerto Rico. A 3-inch-thick auxiliary cable popped out of its socket on one of the telescope’s three towers and crashed into the 1,000-foot reflector dish below. It tore a 100-foot gash in the panels.



a close up of some grass: A hole in the 1,000-foot-wide reflector dish of the Arecibo Observatory, torn when a cable fell on August 10. Arecibo Observatory


© Arecibo Observatory
A hole in the 1,000-foot-wide reflector dish of the Arecibo Observatory, torn when a cable fell on August 10. Arecibo Observatory

Then in early November, just before repairs were set to begin in earnest, a 15,000-pound main cable from the same tower broke and crashed into the dish. Engineers

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One of America’s great wildernesses is being destroyed, bit by bit, in a silent massacre

Hidden away in the heart of the Deep South, one of the nation’s greatest wildernesses is being destroyed, bit by bit, in a silent massacre.



a close up of a flower garden: A field of pitcher plants in a bog in Alabama's Mobile River basin, where thousands of species are under threat and many have gone extinct. (Ben Raines)


© (Ben Raines)
A field of pitcher plants in a bog in Alabama’s Mobile River basin, where thousands of species are under threat and many have gone extinct. (Ben Raines)

You won’t find people chaining themselves to trees to protect this place, or national environmental groups using pictures of it to sign up new members, because few know it exists. And yet, here it is — the Mobile River Basin, one of the richest in the world in terms of the sheer number of species and types of habitat. The major rivers and thousands of creeks feeding into this basin together form the largest inland delta system in the United States, second only to the Mississippi in how much water it dumps into the Gulf of Mexico.

The river system, the fourth-largest in the country in terms of water flow, stretches from the northern edge of Alabama to the Gulf, draining parts of four states, and encompassing hundreds of thousands of acres of forest, from Appalachian hardwood stands to haunted cypress swamps. A dedicated band of locals know it for the incredible hunting and fishing it affords. But few know it for its greatest distinction. That’s a shame, for this is America’s Amazon, far and away the most biodiverse river network in North America.

There are more species of oaks on a single hillside on the banks of the Alabama River than you can find anywhere else in the world. The Mobile River Basin makes Alabama home to more species of freshwater fish, mussels, snails, turtles and crawfish than any other state. The contest isn’t even close.

For instance, Alabama is home to 97 crawfish species, while California, three times the size of Alabama, has but nine. There are 450 species of freshwater fish in the state, or about one-third of all species known in the entire nation. The system’s turtle population is even more singular. The Mobile-Tensaw Delta estuary system has 18 turtle species, more than any other river delta system in the world — more than the Amazon and more than the Mekong, both extraordinarily biodiverse ecosystems.

Unlike most of the nation’s great river systems, the Mobile Basin — along with its wetlands, floodplain forests and estuary — has survived with its biological community mostly intact. That is due in large measure to an odd combination of benign neglect and the mixed blessing of being located in the heart of Alabama. Tragically, it now sits on the cusp of decline, facing death by a thousand cuts, just as the scientific community has begun to appreciate its riches. Habitat destruction, development and lax enforcement of environmental regulations conspire to take an increasing toll, making the area a global hot spot for extinctions, particularly of aquatic creatures.



a close up of food: A baby sargassum crab clings to floating seaweed off Mobile Bay. (Ben Raines)


© (Ben Raines)
A baby sargassum crab clings to floating seaweed off Mobile Bay. (Ben Raines)

In

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First ‘Murder Hornets’ Nest Found In US Will Be Destroyed

The “murder hornets” nest found in the Pacific Northwest won’t be around for long. The Washington State Department of Agriculture announced they found the first nest in the U.S. and it will be destroyed shortly.

The WSDA entomologists found an Asian giant hornet nest (nicknamed “murder hornets”) on a property in Blaine, which borders Canada. After trapping and tagging several of the hornets last week, they finally had luck when they were able to attach a radio tracker to one deadly insect and followed it back to the nest.

The Asian giant hornets made a home in a tree, which isn’t always the case. “While Asian giant hornets normally nest in the ground, they are occasionally found nesting in dead trees. Dozens of the hornets were seen entering and exiting the tree while the WSDA team was present,” a press release revealed.

They shared a video of the “murder hornets” nest on Twitter: 

The first Asian giant hornet was spotted in Washington in December 2019 and scientists trapped their first insect in July. They are an invasive species, which is why they will be destroyed Saturday.

While “murder hornets” kill 30 to 50 people in Japan each year, scientists are also concerned about the deadly hornets killing the honeybees and other insects that are vital to healthy ecosystems in the U.S. The Asian giant hornet is five times the size of a honeybee and can take out a honeybee hive in hours.

The east coast doesn’t have murder hornets at the moment, but they’ve been fighting a different invasive species. The spotted lanternfly, also an invasive species from Asia, sparked “quarantine” rules in New Jersey.

A sample specimen of a dead Asian Giant Hornet from Japan, also known as a murder hornet, is shown by a pest biologist from the Washington State Department of Agriculture on July 29, 2020 in Bellingham, Washington A sample specimen of a dead Asian Giant Hornet from Japan, also known as a murder hornet, is shown by a pest biologist from the Washington State Department of Agriculture on July 29, 2020 in Bellingham, Washington Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Karen Ducey

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