Apparently there is a seismic observatory only tens of meters away from the telescope dish. The station code is AOPR .
After retrieving the mseed data from the web API using curl, and installing obspy from pip, I could plot the events. This is the result: . You can see two "events". One at Nov 30, 23:12 UTC, and a second, larger one at Dec 1st, 11:52 UTC. Upon closer inspection, the first event is actually multiple smaller ones, not sure if they are related to the collapse at all. The second event is clearly one discrete thing though. The image was uploaded to twitter at 11:56 UTC, so minutes within the collapse being recorded on the seismograph. You can still see the dust in the air.
Pretty cool that all this data is out there, in the open, just a curl request away.
: Note on some of the screenshots I've preprocessed the data with a lowpass filter st.filter("lowpass", freq=0.1, corners=2) to make it look nicer, while in others I haven't. I'm just an interested person, not doing this on a scientific level. https://imgur.com/a/FjrbWWa
> The Puerto Rico Seismic Network (PRSN) is saddened to learn about the collapse at the Arecibo Radiotelescope Observatory this morning of December 1st, 2020. PRSN’s seismic station AOPR, located within the premises of the observatory, detected the timing of the failure. This seismic station has been a long collaboration between PRSN and the Arecibo Observatory. Here we publish the seismic record of AOPR at the time of collapse, which coincidentally occurred during the passage of seismic waves through Puerto Rico from a Dominican Republic earthquake of M4.0 that occurred at 07:51 AM AST. The figure below shows 07:52:42 AM AST (11:52:42 UTC) as the exact time of collapse at the AOPR seismic station, denoted by a sharp impulsive signal, right after the arrival of the S wave of the earthquake. It is a sad day for Science and a tragedy to lose such an important, iconic, valuable, and unique scientific instrument and allowed so many scientific advances and discoveries to humanity.
That facebook post is waaaay better than what I as a layman was able to come up in the post above. We made both posts at the same time though, so I couldn't know any better.
Also thanks for posting the link to the video, it's precisely the kind of breakdown I like :).
Anyways, that's just splitting hairs. Glad that nobody got hurt. This incident is obviously a tragedy.
> FDSN Web Services provide a common data access API for seismic data.
For weather data, I found this page by googling:
Generally I think it's better to get it from commercial vendors, because a lot of weather stations/data are only available commercially.
Reason 2: They are not going to build a new one. NSF has tried to get rid of AO for a long time now.
"states with major observatories, such as New Mexico and West Virginia, have senators famous for their power over purse strings, some of whom are already gearing up to fight proposed cuts. By contrast, Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, has no senators. And its representative in the House" "does not have a vote."
and "The cash crunch stems from a "senior review" completed last November at NSF." and
""The ambitions of the astronomy community for new things was far outstripping the capacity of the federal budget to cover them," said Wayne van Citters, NSF's astronomy division director, who organized the independent review"
Well sure, but a hypothetical new structure is also going to require cables, just hopefully a more reliable construction. So why not keep the dish for now, and consider rebuilding the cables in a more modern fashion, and with redundant cables?
How did they build the cables in the first place? Couldn't they just snip the cables with a helicopter or unmanned drone with a flying chopsaw and string new ones as if it was a brand new construction?
Basically I'm not understanding how it is impossible to replace something but it is evidently possible to build that something.
This was basically a whole building suspended into the air. Science or magic? Amazing engineering to be sure (but maybe not built with maintenance and security in mind)
As for replacing cables, anyone who has rebuilt a RAID array will tell you that hardware is most likely to fail when it's under stress, like when you have workers in the towers setting the footings for the new ultra-safe cables. It's not just dangerous because they don't know when it'll give way, it's dangerous because messing with it was likely to trigger a collapse like what we just saw.
Still likely not a compelling case for rebuilding, however.
I assumed that in 2020 we have unmanned solutions to taking something down, and then rebuilding would be done with proper engineering as if it were a new radio telescope but the dish is already built for you.
No robot currently exists that can replace even a tiny fraction of the tasks a 16 year old teenager with a hard-hat and steel toed boots can do at a construction site.
So, in essence, doing a replacement of all of the cables would need to start by essentially disassembling the thing completely and then rebuilding it.
Basically I'm not understanding how it is
impossible to replace something but it is
evidently possible to build that something.
To put this in perspective, at the cost of a single F-35A, Arecibo could be running for ~7y with funding at 2011 levels.
That a fighter plane may or may not come out the other end is only nominally important, the key is to spend the money. The more money spent, the more people get work. That keeps people elected.
Arecibo had 120 FTE employees, mostly in Puerto Rico. Politically speaking that makes it inconsequential.
If you want different outcomes, then the political incentives need to be fundamentally re-aligned.
For agencies like NSF, the science is sometimes almost secondary. What matters perhaps the most is that qualified and capable students continue to emerge from, and sustain, America's scientific institutions.
Arecibo has been fighting for its fiscal life since I was an undergraduate in the early 2000s. I couldn't understand then why anyone would want to cut funding to it, as the facility is unique and capable. As a more-mature scientist, I now understand that older instruments sometimes must sadly make way for new endeavors.
This collapse is a powerful moment for US radio astronomy. Will the community redirect the funds to promising new instruments, buck up and rebuild an upgraded Arecibo, or use the fleeting prominence of the moment find a way to grow the funding pie and do both?
It is embarrassing for the planet's leading scientific nation to have China's larger modern copy of Arecibo (FAST) come on-line in 2016 and our venerable telescope collapse without replacement in 2020. We owe it to ourselves to do better than this.
My point is that politically none of that matters. No one is getting elected because people got to book telescope time for their research. The incentives are not correctly aligned to support research and science.
To go back to the F-35 comparison: the NSF has annual funding of $8.3 billion. The F-35 program is projected to cost $21.7 billion per year through its lifespan (2001-2070). I bet it winds up even higher than that, because nothing has yet changed to prevent endless overruns.
So the F-35 makes jobs and maybe a little bit of interesting work gets done as a result of the project despite itself. We as a society could buy so much more than yet another war machine (and maybe not even a useful one) with that money and effort. What could NSF do with another $13 billion every year?
I wonder about that. It's been a while since I studied, but the phrase "deadweight loss" looms large in what I remember of the one economics class I took in college. So I wouldn't be surprised if the program is actually a net negative for job creation.
Only that doesn't matter, either, because the point is not to create more jobs; the point is to influence job creation in a way that benefits the people who hold the purse strings. If the cost of doing so outweighs the benefits, that's inconsequential. Those costs are so widely dispersed as to be invisible, immeasurable, and difficult to discuss except on theoretical grounds. They'll never be as compelling as a staged photograph of a senator in a suit and a hard hat, sticking a shovel in the ground.
As another example, I wonder if Wisconsin's sweetheart deal with Foxconn actually had a negative impact on employment. Clearly Foxconn's promised jobs never materialized, but the threat of them coming to town to spend big money may have had a chilling effect on existing or prospective new employers in the area.
Back to the F-35 program, the jobs it creates may be deadweight, deadend careers that don't produce real value. And then you can't just have these people unemployed and starving, so I guess we'll need an F-35+1 program for them and their descendents. And so on forever, until we break this cycle.
Versus something else that you could buy with the same money that has a future and does create real value (like say, solar panels?). But you're right, its just about the perception of jobs and that photo op.
This is a big part of the problem. If you give the F-35 program $1 billion and you give the NSF $1 billion dollars, the F-35 program is going to directly generate more jobs. They pay people less, and they need more unskilled labor. The NSF needs very little unskilled labor, relatively speaking. Scientists are expensive. Machinery for science is crazy expensive (although so are a lot of F-35 components). Machinery for science also often involves buying foreign parts, such as the replacement cables for Arecibo that were coming from Germany.
One way for the NSF to address that is by requiring parts to be US made like the DoD does. It will increase the price, and it will often result in less effective parts (as it often does for the DoD), but you can make an easier argument that cutting NSF funding will take away jobs. I don't know if that's a net win or not, but it would probably get them more funding.
It is not so different from subsidising farming (similar pros and cons) to ensure food security.
There is a lot going on in the supply chain that you need to maintain at a baseline level if you ever expect to have to fight.
From a very macro level whatever airframes get shipped may matter less than maintaining all the specialised knowledge and suppliers that you need to produce them. "Looking after the machine that makes the machine".
Concentrated benefits and diffused costs.
However, I think this does speak to your earlier point about politics. It's easier to get people on board with funding "health" (since everyone cares about their own health) than it is for "science"
China's is not really a copy. It does not have transmit capability. What is really missing now in US, and international science is asteroid radar imaging and ranging.
Optical instruments have a wide field of view and don't have the inherent SNR problems that radar does. (I.e., using the Sun to illuminate objects is more efficient than doing it yourself.)
As a side-effect, there are all kinds of other transient sources that these scanning telescopes pick up, like supernovae, relativistic jets from AGNs ("blazars"), exotic variable stars, etc. (http://crts.caltech.edu) It's a zoo out there!
Radar does play a role in orbit characterization, and recovery of object geometry, once the NEO gets close enough. But you can get orbits through optical techniques too.
The NASA center for near-Earth objects (NEOs) is: https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/about/search_program.html
NEO close approaches to Earth, tabulated: https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/. There was a really close one today, actually (a 5-meter object at 0.13 lunar distances).
For more about the role of planetary radar in NEOs, search for "radar" in this FAQ: https://www.nasa.gov/planetarydefense/faq
A far-side moon solution's probably still quite a way off, but I wonder if some sort of lagrangian or outward-facing satellites in geosynchronous orbit might work. I'm imagining satellites with large Earth-facing shields, sort of like a radiowave version of the sunshield on the James Webb Telescope. I'm probably missing some really obvious Physics 101-level reason that wouldn't work, but a girl can dream.
I don't have great advice for direct advocacy (A billboard that says, "America's scientific infrastructure is collapsing -- fund science now!"?). At the grassroots level, providing opportunities for people to engage directly with science -- outreach, lab tours, science field trips, etc. help people to learn to understand the world around them, engage with science, see the infrastructure, and take ownership.
Every time I have given a lab tour, I thank everyone who attends for underwriting the science with their tax dollars. Essentially all fundamental research in the US is funded by you, the taxpayer. We are really, really grateful for the opportunity to learn something new about nature and share it with everyone. Thank you.
Much of our society runs on pure momentum and very few people have the power to slightly shift the direction of that momentum.
One of the other large radio astronomy observatories in Greenback is also hurting for funding from what I understand. I've worked on a few collaborative research efforts utilizing the data and working with the observatory and the picture painted doesn't look promising there either. That may have changed more recently given the state of Arecibo.
Hacker News, /. for Science?
Look - not everything is solved by collective action, nor everything solved by individual action.
Your strategy is determined by your terrain. The terrain here is a competitive field for human attention. Arecibo has nothing against dying puppies.
The beauty of the stars, the ambition of man? That has some scope.
But its still easier to find a few people who will regularly email and talk to your elected representatives, create networks that will work this out.
There MUST be some other people who want to contribute to this, and they may have resources other than cash to pool.
I think that in today's world, if you want science to get funded like defense projects, you'll have to embrace all of the grossness of defense projects. Lobbyists, sub-contractors, patriotic jingoism, fear, etc. Look at how we got to the moon.
That's another side to projects like the F-35 that people on HN usually don't pay attention to. This programs not only "create" those jobs but they also keep the infrastructure and "machine" running that can design and build this very powerful weapons. The US had air superiority because of its technology for a while and if all that infrastructure and people just start doing something else, in like 5/10 years then the capacity to build this machines is dead, and it would take 10/15 years to get it back up and running.
While everyone in US benefits from this, (mostly) liberals disingenuously “protest”. You know, if you really care about this issue, then blue-collar protection policies, like some recent president tried, would go a long way to lift lower middle class and paradoxically reduce a need to project force world-wide all the time.
> If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well tried principles of Laissez Faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.
How about paying people for 4 years to get a college degree on whatever subject they like, instead of having them grinding on a bullshit job?
I'm exhausted seeing data that indicates that states like mine put in more money than they get from the Federal government, and watching people from states that receive more than they put in talk about welfare state, wealth redistribution, etc.
The Rockefeller Institute data (https://rockinst.org/issue-areas/fiscal-analysis/balance-of-...) shows that it's not so much "blue states" as frequently claimed, but taxpayers of four very wealthy Northeast states (the Tri-State area plus Massachusetts) that account for the vast bulk of citizens paying more than they receive from the federal government. After them come CO, NE, UT, and MN, of which half voted for Hillary/Biden and half for Trump. All other states, including CA, are net beneficiaries of the taxpayers in the top eight (and, again, really, it's the top four).
The 10 states at the bottom of the Rockefeller report's per capita list—that is, the states that benefit from the most federal spending per person compared to how much each person pays in federal taxes—are
Hillary/Biden-voting states: VA, NM, MD, HI, 1/2 of ME
Trump-voting states: KY, AK, AL, WV, MS, 1/2 of ME
Yeaaah… no. It only shows that under the default of 2018 BOP.
If you select the last primary tab and look at the 4 years tally, you will see a picture rather more inline with the "folk knowledge", including that while Californians have had a BOP just shy of positive from 2017, their negative BOP in 2015 and 2016 puts them rather into the negative for the 4 years period. Less so than the tri-state or Colorado, but the picture you're painting is at best misleading.
Cato has different numbers than Rockefeller.
I've lived in multiple blue states, and they're all "losers" by this definition.
My state is in the same boat, and I don't mind the taxes, but if the states getting it are going to whine about it, I don't want to force them to take it...
My alcoholic racist uncle who beats his family receives welfare check for his disability. I am clearly paying into the system and he hates me extra for being an in interracial marriage. I don't like to have my money go towards him, but guess what?
Same here. You don't like that your money is being spent on people against your wishes? You just discovered the true nature of taxation.
No, I'm fine with it. But there are entire states run by dinks who HATE IT, and yet they take it, cursing me and people like me all the while.
I think it's possible we could trick them into agreeing to laws or even a Constitutional Amendment which would prevent them from benefiting from a system they say they hate.
I honestly think that in principle it would be easy.
"Should wealth be redistributed from one state to another?" "No!" "Wow, that was way easier than I thought."
Socialism's more about the community owning and managing the means of production, and less about just giving people money. You could make a good case that the F-35 program, with all its bloat and cost overruns and inefficient distribution of funds by congressional district, is typical of a socialist jobs program -- granted, the F-35 also has a layer of capitalist shareholders parasitically skimming off the top, but if that were removed, the political pressures that result in the inefficiencies would remain.
My comment was intended to be more tongue-in-cheek. People fear socialism, but capitalism is not the answer to all of the world's problems.
People have basic needs: safety, sustenance, shelter, self-determination. They have higher level needs too, and we aren't living in a post-scarcity society yet, but we have the resources to meet these basic needs for at least 328 million people.
That means DC, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa (collectively 3.8 million US citizens) should all be made states.
There are undoubtedly lots of issues and hiccups with implementing that, but fundamentally I think that having classes of citizens with abridged rights is wrong.
But I agree completely, having people who pay taxes and can't access all the machinery of government they fund is criminal. (This also includes disenfranchised felons, but especially disenfranchised ex-felons.)
I believe one of the big downsides for citizens of Puerto Rico that has caused issues with the push for statehood is that they don't currently pay federal income tax. So it isn't exactly a taxation-without-representation situation, but they are obviously at the mercy of the US in many ways and don't have access to all of the levers of power that are available to others.
Witness the suffering at our delay in suspending the Jones Act (requiring two days of debate) during the Hurricane Maria relief campaign.
I doubt that Puerto Rico's lot would fundamentally change if they were a separate country though, they would still be largely at the mercy of their main trading partner and dominant regional power (the US).
I was also thinking of felons in my earlier comment, but it didn't quite fit my narrative. I don't find the rationale that they would just vote for there to be no laws particularly compelling.
> Puerto Rico is a US territory and not a state, so its residents don’t pay federal income tax unless they work for the US government. Even so, workers there pay the majority of federal taxes that Americans on the mainland pay — payroll taxes, social security taxes, business taxes, gift taxes, estate taxes and so on.
> In 2017, Puerto Rico had a median household income of $19,775 — the lowest of any state or territory in the United States.
> PR residents are actively against the idea mainly because they don't pay fed taxes.
They do. They don't pay income tax which with their low incomes is marginal anyway.
Same reason Washington DC residents don’t have representation in the Senate. Or why the popular vote does not matter for the president.
If they want to give DC residents voting rights they should make it impossible to be a DC resident and instead anyone who lives within DC should vote as part of the state the land was taken from for federal elections.
That solves everyone's problems (well aside from the democrats who are trying to get another 2 seats in the senate).
Local issues should still be decided at the federal level because that's the whole reason it exists, so a state can't take the seat of fed gov hostage as happened in 1783 in philly.
If you don't want DC to be controlled by the fed then it should be swallowed by maryland or virginia. Making a single city a state unto itself doesn't make any sense unless you're specifically trying to make political hay.
Having two Dakotas doesn't make any sense from a political representation point of view either, but here we are.
It's kinda mindblowing that you can't identify your own hypocrisy right off the bat and actually posted this comment.
That’s quite the turn around.
You’ve also made some pretty bold claims without explanation. What makes you feel that it’s “unconscionable and based in partisan politics” to not give a single city two senators and instead follow the two options I proposed?
ETA: Your hypocrisy is brought into even starker relief with this comment. You’re like the people who were arguing for packing the courts (before the election) because it just makes sense (for whatever inane “nonpartisan” reason they could come up with), and then when asked “What if Trump wins?”, their face just drops...
I'm seriously considering your proposal and not mocking it, but I don't think it's any more or less sensible, on its face, than creating a new "state". Note, I put "state" in quotes because I don't see why we can't dictate in that state constitution that the state is administered by Congress.
I think that putting substantial funding into making the US the world leader in climate change related technology is such an obvious slam dunk that it defies belief for me that there seems to be no political will to do it.
Argue about the reality of climate change if you must, but the simple facts are that there is finite oil, finite coal, finite natural gas and the extraction and processing of those fuels is an expensive and dirty business. Of course solar, wind, hydro and nuclear don't compete yet -- how about putting in the same R&D money as fossil fuels? And when you make it work, the entire world will buy this tech from you. It could clearly be the US's next economic gold rush, after the Internet and post-WW2 manufacturing (and, I guess, the gold rush).
I do wonder if the economic approach is just doomed to be a non-starter, and if the faster way is to frame it as a national security issue. That leads to a number of other problems, but time is clearly of the essence and they know how to spend money over there.
Obama-era subsidies of clean energy definitely panned out (though solyndra was a failure). Drive from California to Texas some time, and count the windmills. Those were subsidized at about the same time as solyndra.
From what I could tell from reading placards on the sides of the (many) convoys that deliver more on a daily basis, they’re mostly made by GE.
Similarly, rooftop solar was bootstrapped on top of those subsidies (though the Chinese won the panel manufacturing part of that industry, the US did well on battery technology).
Also, this hasn’t been so much a brief push as a sporadic push. The three blade giant windmill design was invented during California’s big wind power push in the early eighties.
I find it comical that it's often presented as a giant boondoggle when, as you say, the world is already greener as a result.
We took the job anyway because it looked interesting, started doing the preliminaries, and when we went to get the test panels a couple weeks later, a FBI lady shooed us away from the parking lot as they were taping the building up.
But I guess at least Seagate got a nice building out of it.
When it closed up shop, people were blaming China, again, for stealing American technology, and putting another good American company out of business.
But from your description, it sounds like Solyndra was a scam to part investors and the American government, with their money.
I wish we'd go back to calling the "Defense Department" the "War Department" as it was originally called. And stop calling it "expensive defense projects" but "expensive war projects". Call it for what it really isn't. We aren't defending ourselves from anyone. We are the one's attacking everyone.
I agree with this. I've been saying for years that our military programs are giant socialist jobs programs in disguise (that unfortunately have the side effect of propping up the military industrial complex). If we were honest with ourselves and re-allocated that money to actual jobs programs we would get a much better ROI. Given the obscene amount of resources wasted we could reallocate a significant chunk of it without hurting our military preparedness one bit.
What do we have? Unprecedented world peace. Why do we have it? American foreign policy.
You have to remember our military budget covers all of NATO in an intentional bid to reduce the military power of our allies which helps keep them peaceful.
There have been hundreds of armed conflicts going on around the world since the end of WW2, many of which were either directly instigated by the USA or at least involved the USA. There are dozens going on right now  some resulting in massive casualties. I don't think we will ever see world peace.
You don't mass-produce already-obsolete fighter jets in order to promote peace or as an innocent act of military preparedness and industry knowledge-building. You build them to fight war.
It’s about relative peace, worldwide number of conflicts, casualty rate by population, geographical spread of conflicts, etc.
What is unprecedented is your chance of being killed in war has gone down substantially and stayed down after WWII. The types of conflicts have changed, civil wars now dominate, other types have gone down significantly or have been eliminated. There have not been conflicts between major military powers.
Spending our money on a giant military behemoth makes sense in a mutually assured destruction / deterrence sense, but I think that approach only gets you so far. It also creates a gigantic war machine that exists only to find conflicts. The nuclear arsenal strongly deters conflicts from rising above a certain level (as long as rational people are on both sides...), but the rest of the machine gets put to use distressingly often.
You can't just stop funding it tomorrow, and you can't even really reduce its funding without considerable pain and risk, but we must find a way to transition more and more of our military power to economic and cultural diplomacy (which we also have always done, but which has been diminished in recent years).
Weapons. We developed weapons that could sanitize the planet, and in the case that someone might challenge our intention to actually use them, we developed weapons that ran the spectrum so that war against us would always seem a major losing proposition. The only thing left is insurgency and proxy wars, always carefully enough to not trigger major action.
Given that game becoming economically codependent and the world is the best play for the available game, and then indeed “peace is good for business”.
Did you know that the Vietnam War had the biggest aerial bombardment in history, of all wars?
The body count in Vietnam easily exceeded 1 million and may be as high as 4 million.
Do you think that's a small, localised conflict?
Being the first president to announce the detection of an extraterrestrial intelligence would be a big deal. Clinton certainly jumped on the mic pretty fast when we thought life had been found on mars. Such possibilities could provide the political motivation to keep the next giant telescope funded.
"This needs maintenance or it'll collapse in five years" has little political weight if your term ends in four years.
Really, you just need manufacturing/contractors in many places. This part built in Pennsylvania, that one in Michigan.
The most sensitive VLBI array is the European VLBI network  which spans the sort of scales you have in mind.
A VLBI array can also incorporate space-based nodes, see e.g. .
So we are really talking about wealth transfer from all taxpayers to some taxpayers who are usually doing well already plus huge losses on the way.
Obviously, there is a bunch of technology being developed that benefits US but let us not kid ourselves, it is not the most cost effective way of doing research.
James Webb Space Telescope:
Proposed Budget: $500 mil
Current Budget: $10 Billion
Space Launch System
Current Budget: $20 billion
Proposed Budget : 22 Billion Euro
Current Proposed Budget: 64 Billion Euro
There are lots of science projects that are funded. Some of them just get more attention than others
> James Webb Space Telescope: Proposed Budget: $500 mil Current Budget: $10 Billion
That is over 40 years! Almost 30 years to build it and 10 years to operate it. That's $250 million per year.
> Space Launch System Current Budget: $20 billion
SLS is not a science program.
> ITER: Proposed Budget : 22 Billion Euro Current Proposed Budget: 64 Billion Euro
The proposed budget is 22 billion, not 64. That's for almost 40 years of construction and 20 years of operation. So we're talking 60 years of funding. Think about that, this is something that could revolutionize everything! Save the planet too. We're spending 360 million per year or so on it. That's absurd.
There are a few big science projects, and even they get very modest funding.
Let us put the F-35 into context. It will cost 1.7 trillion dollars for 55 years. That's an insane amount of money, 30 billion per year. https://www.stripes.com/news/us/pentagon-reportedly-estimate...
We fund science, which improves our lives and saves us from pandemics, at a pittance, and fund insane programs to bomb poor people at crazy levels.
NASA decided this dish wasn't worth even a few million a year in funding. Perhaps this dish simply wasn't worth maintaining? Which is the conclusion multiple organizations seemed to have settled on.
It is possible but far from certain that inspections could have found and fixed cable problems before ultimate failure.
John Michael Godier made an interesting interview with Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay regarding placing a radio telescope on the far (silent) side of Moon. Notably, our moon is also obviously devoid of the ionosphere, but what is less obvious, is that this would allow us to observe wavelengths that have so far never been studied by humans.
That's pretty exciting. Historically, every time we find a new way to observe the universe, we discover something that fundamentally changes our understanding. (E.g., optical astronomy put the nail in the Aristotelian model. Radio revealed that our galaxy was one of many. X-ray revealed that black holes are real, among other high energy phenomena.)
That said, there are some signals (like the 21cm hydrogen line) from the Universe's Dark Age that have redshifted to what we can expect to listen for in the multiple meter wavelengths, even 10m or more. But what we will learn from this? I agree with you, it will be exciting.
Downside: Harder to get to if you do need to make repairs.
Hard to imagine that an observatory of such scientific importance, would be neglected and allowed to rust away until cable break.
Trump Created The Space Force, and bragged about how much money he gave Puerto Rico after the hurricane. Large projects like this need ongoing government funding. So I'm surprised more was not done to prevent this.
Similar things happened during collapse of the USSR. Major scientific projects just got left behind to rust.
I know that China built a new larger radio telescope, but this one could send out messages.
The observatory helped us map planets, find pulsars, track asteroids, and send messages to aliens.
It's fascinating to think about it. Some projects like advanced rocket engines were salvaged by people who care and other projects like the Buran shuttle were left to rot and destroyed by petty stuff like rooftop collapse.
At the end though, maybe it's just a natural selection process. Arguably, saving the Buran might have turned into an expensive mistake considering the fate of US shuttle program.
I mean all the infrastructure is there. Power, networking, housing, staff, etc., etc. Like there couldn’t ever be a more convenient place to drop a similar type of instrument, right?
And it seems that the towers are still up, surely the anchors for the cables are no worse for wear. The actual dish itself looks to be composed of a bunch of panels that are probably designed for easy replacement. And most of them seem to still be intact.
Just string up a newer, lighter weight, more powerful state of the art instrument array on a newer, stronger, lighter set of cables.
Or am I missing something obvious?
That is the real tragedy here, Arecibo was killed over the course of years.
Why is this completely erroneous fact believed by so many people? Other than a 1 time injection due to the 2008 crisis, NSF funding increases nearly every year and is currently at its second highest budget ever: https://dellweb.bfa.nsf.gov/NSFRqstAppropHist/NSFRequestsand...
In FY2019 NSF reduced its budget for Arecibo from $8M to $6.08M a 24% reduction in support for this instrument.
And personally I was surprised that for $8M a year you could fund the program (presumably that was with a bunch of clearly needed maintenance being deferred). It really is too bad that some billionaire didn't just fund it. I'm wondering if Paul Allen helped out when he was alive.
(That is, the 2010 NSF budget of $7.045 B in 2010 is in real terms equivalent to about $8.413 B today, about a billion dollars more than the real 2020 budget of $7.066 B, using the inflation calculator at .)
Here, for instance, is the actual appropriations bill for 1998 . As you can see,
> "There are authorized to be appropriated to the Foundation $3,505,630,000 for fiscal year 1998."
For comparison, the value in the aforementioned table for FY1998 is $3,430.63 M. This is a bit off, presumably because in contrast to the bill the values in the table are " after supplemental appropriations, transfers, and reprogrammings".
I had missed, though, that the appropriations for the last two years were actually higher than the request, so some signs of recent growth.
It's bigger, more steerable, and better in (almost) every way, although one could imagine reasons why its location in China could be problematic.
If you build a new and very different instrument you can churn out a lot of papers picking the long hanging fruit on the new instrument (just whatever you discover as soon as you turn it on), you can churn out a lot of papers about the technical challenges that come up in a new and different instrument.
A well understood, well established instrument type is more valuable for verifying results and discovering the things that take decades of consistent observations. ... but these don't generate many publications.
Like you I initially think just a repair job. Big one no though. But it seems those remaining could harm anyone who do the repair. It was not designed with only one less cable. And hence those remained can cut anytime and anywhere. The whole area could be a danger Zone.
Seems you need to demolish the whole site if the discussion along this line is true.
See whether any better information. But I guess the reason why the maintenance is not there to prevent it is also the reason it cannot be rebuilt.
This seems to have been much more a problem of ~60yo hardware, suffering decades of insufficient maintenance funding, compounded by multiple tropical events and at least one earthquake.
Here's a more detailed account of the collapse . Looks like they called it, and it just happened quicker than expected.
Other sources (via https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...):
No, it means that funding prioritization is completely screwed up. Arecibo was a world-class instrument. The next largest radar telescope isn't even one-tenth as powerful. This is a giant loss and a colossal screw-up of prioritization. Building something new costs a lot more than maintaining an existing installation (they were only spending single digits millions per year on Arecibo -- nothing). And they couldn't even come up with that.
Wikipedia has a decently comprehensive summary of the funding cutbacks Arecibo faced: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arecibo_Observatory#Funding_re...
They oddly enough don't mention some of the questionable things NSF AST did, like argue over Arecibo finding it's own funding: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/search-for-alien-...
> This probably means, the scientific output was less promising than those projects.
Not true. Arecibo was by far the most powerful planetary radar system on the planet, by something like a 20x factor of sensitivity. Arecibo's size and frequency used (2.38GHz) meant that it's beam was a great compromise between beam width and strength. The narrower beams available on the remaining telescopes makes it more difficult to find elusive and not well known near-earth objects.
Arecibo was contributing vast and meaningful science until it met it's untimely end.
> I wonder whether there should be plans made for a completely new rebuild?
Yes. Resoundingly yes. Even a comparable telescope (meaning we don't chase bigger and better like FAST) would be a massive enhancement. And with intentional planning, it would likely be possible to extend and enhance the capabilities while still reducing problems in the original design.
Unfortunately, I can only imagine the hurdles in design/funding/construction that a second telescope would face.
Plus, if there was no will to fund basic maintenance how are you going to fund a whole new instrument?
However, neither of the above would prohibit a new replacement being constructed.
That being said, you're 100% correct. NSF is highly unlikely to fund the a new instrument. For a rather long time they've exhibited a distaste for Arecibo. Whoever it was that started NSF down this road back in 2006 must be quite happy with the results.
What's insane is how "affordable" a telescope can be compared to the things we casually build and destroy for military spending. Green Bank Telescope (105m telescope) was constructed for around 100 Million USD, and it's a moving telescope.
For the cost of a couple of F-35 jets, we could possibly build a new telescope, or make a rather large step in the right direction.
It was my wife's school friend Marjory Bacon that headed that project. (She was also the person who turned on the Hubble telescope and initiated the first self-diagnostic)
The first answer is ICBMs are, now a days, mostly an IR optical thing.
The flightpath of most Russia to US ICBMs would never have passed over the observatory, obviously, but it was a major radar technology research site in the early years.
Source? This seems unlikely since ground-based visual tracking would be obscured by e.g. clouds. Is ICBM tracking all space-based and visual? (I can see why IR is useful to detect the initial boost, but it would also seem rather useless to track a small, passive object in freefall).
That's probably anomalously hot as it plows back through the atmosphere.
I think radar stealth coatings are sufficiently advanced that they swung the balance back in favor of IR for tracking purposes.
Historically: it was hard / unknown how to make a flying object that resisted reflecting radar
Current: it's hard / unknown how to make a flying object that's resistant to radiating heat
There are techniques to reduce infrared signature, though:
I would assume that if you're tracking it on re-entry that's a little too late.
Launch - early warning, max time, low certainty of trajectory
Boost - trajectory and impact refinement
Re-entry - terminal maneuvering, impact prediction, terminal interceptor cueing
I'd imagine you'd have ground-based sensors for terminal interception refinement, but having a wide angle view to cover highly maneuverable glide vehicles would be useful too.
Just a second of observing the plume's trajectory will tell the difference between and orbital or ballistic one. Ballistic missiles will also be launched over the poles to travel the shortest distance to their targets. So IR plumes over the North Pole either means Santa's upped his present delivery game or there's an incoming ballistic missile attack.
Short story: before our nuke strategy shifted to basically all ICBM's and submarines, the plan was to nuke the soviets with fleets of long range bombers. To get the bombers in, though, you needed to know where the air defense radars were. The U2's were good at flying too stealthily and too high for missiles, but not great... one or two did go down creating some, er, light international incidents. So eventually someone figured out big air defense radars bounce off the moon when the moon is overhead, and suddenly there was a lot of CIA money funding radio telescopes like Arecibo and the Stanford dish.
A bicycle wheel has redundant spokes: you could design a wheel with 66% of the typical number of spokes and it would work OK. But if you do break a spoke, the wheel will start deforming straight away. If you can't replace the spoke, one piece of advice is to loosen the spoke directly opposite the broken one to even out the distribution of force.
All well-known best practices don't matter if structures cannot be maintained because the governing bodies deny the necessary funding for maintenance/repairs/operation.
In a sense Arecibo was knowingly "given up".
But it was installed on the cheap: if they'd had more money they would likely have paid for more diligent engineers. After all, they built it pretty well the first time round. So at some level, yeah, the root cause is a lack of funds.
Where? What evidence do you have for such a claim?
>The auxiliary cable was almost certainly installed incorrectly
Are you almost certain? How do you know? What stopped you from being completely certain?
>and the failure mode that occurred (cable slipped out of its socket) would not have happened if best practices were followed.
Are you a radio observatory specialist? Please share! Looking at your submission and comment history, you don't appear to have any special expertise at all. Curious where your very specific and definite pronouncements arise from.
>But it was installed on the cheap
Again: What's your evidence for this claim? And inferring this from historical under-funding isn't a satisfactory answer.
>So at some level, yeah, the root cause is a lack of funds.
Kind of strange to make all of those claims above and then come out and just plainly state this at the conclusion.
You've made lots of claims and I think you're just talking out of your ass. If that's the case, your comments are shameful and inappropriate.
The only comparison I know is the FAST which opted to actively deform the dish itself for focusing rather than suspend such a heavy receiver.
The choices were made based on funding and ability. The main platform, towers, and reflector was designed and constructed in 1960, long before our computing capabilities could have even conceived of being able to accurately deform the surface. Heck, the reason the dome is so massive is that it holds a secondary and tertiary reflector to convert the focal line (an artifact of the primary reflector being a spheroid instead of a parabola) into a focal point.
Also, the 30-ton platform in FAST is the main limitation preventing FAST from being able to perform planetary radar science. It is too small and cannot support the weight necessary for a radar system of sufficient capacity.
According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arecibo_Observatory#Funding_re... funding was reduced 15 years ago.
Around 5 years ago there was talk about shutting this facility down. So yah, it was knowingly given up, but it wasn't just a short term thought, this was decades of administrators all saying the same thing.
12 days ago https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25151342
21 days ago https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25045573
3 months ago https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24149346
If its the latter, I'm very glad they made the call to not try to fix this thing. It would have been so much more tragic had someone been up on the sub-reflector/instrument assembly. Good call by the powers that be to keep it clear.
That much isn't clear from the articles I have been able to find through a quick google.
EDIT: NSF confirms it was an unplanned collapse that happened overnight: https://twitter.com/NSF/status/1333772980539691008
"Unscheduled rapid disassembly", as it's sometimes phrased.
Though widely anticipated.