On Dec. 1st, the 900 ton equipment pod that was suspended above the 1,000 wide reflecting dish of Arecibo, Puerto Rico's iconic radio telescope crashed into the dish below after the final failure of the cables that suspended it above the dish. V.T., M.G., and G.P. all sent articles about the collapse, but I found this video of the actual collapse that was captured by drones:
As the accompanying article makes clear, engineers feared that the equipment pod bight come crashing down - as vividly shown in the drone video - after the "failure" of some of the supporting suspension cables earlier this year:
The collapse of Arecibo didn’t come as a surprise. Following the failure of two support cables in both August and November, engineers had concluded that there was no safe way to repair Arecibo and that the platform could fall onto the dish at any moment. NSF hoped to do a controlled demolition of the telescope before that happened, but the collapse occurred before any kind of action could take place.
Readers may not realize but the suspended equipment pod - all 900 tons of it - could be moved and adjusted; since the reflecting dish itself could not be moved, the pod could be moved to various positions to receive signals reflected by the dish that came from different positions in the heavens.
What I am still perplexed about is the original cable failure itself. Shortly after the first cable failure last August, I blogged about the event here:
You'll note in that article the picture of the severed cable, which I found then, and still find, highly suspicious, for it looks as if (1) there is a single point of failure, and (2) as if the cable had been cut or severed by some means, possibly thermite, possibly some other means. My original blog, as you'll observe, also included a picture of the failure of some of the cabling strands on the infamous suspension bridge, the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge, otherwise known as Galloping Gertie (a subject of some fascination to me). Gertie's snapped cables show a tangle of spaghetti from the stresses put on them individually during the gyrations the road bed of the bridge underwent during the bridge's collapse in November of 1940 during high winds.
The Arecibo cable picture show little evidence of such stresses, but rather looks like a clean cut. This led me to speculate that the cable failure may have been sabotage. I still entertain that idea, for it seems clear to me from the picture of the failed cable that we're dealing with a cut, not the result of stress.
Subsequently to the "failure", the story was put out that the failure resulted from faulty alloying in the cables, which supposedly had recent been replaced and refurbished. Again, I find that explanation wanting, for if that were the case, one might expect to find multiple points of failure, rather than what appears to be just one.
In short: sabotage.
It's this that I find so fascinating, for in all the coverage of the demise of Arecibo, the "sabotage" hypothesis is not getting just little coverage, it's not even present. If there is any discussion of that possibility, it's being kept very very quiet and secret.
So as one might imagine, I've been doing some "high octane speculation" thinking about the matter. Almost every article that mentions Arecibo mentions its appearance in various feature films: the James Bond thriller Golden Eye, with Pierce Brosnan as James Bond and Sean Bean as "the villain" having their fight from the equipment pod suspended above the dish. In that film, Bean falls from the pod to the dish, and subsequently - perhaps suggestively - the equipment pod explodes, collapses, and falls on Bean, killing him (and the dish). You can view the scene here:
The iconic dish also appeared in the film Contact, and also in an X-Files episode with David Duchovny visiting the facility on a tip from a US Senator that the facility had received an extra-terrestrial signal (referring to the so-called "WOW" signal, though the signal was not received at Arecibo).
Given the association of the famous radio telescope in the movies with (1) space weapons, and (2) extra-terrestrials or the search for them, I have to wonder - if the sabotage hypothesis has any merit - whether or not either or both of these fictional allusions have anything to do with the telescope's real life demise? I wonder if its destruction is because it "saw" or "heard" something it shouldn't, or if its destruction was to prevent it from seeing or hearing something someone does not want seen or heard.
In the meantime, that sabotage hypothesis remains lodged in my mind, and it's not going away any time soon.
See you on the flip side...