R.I.P. Arecibo Telescope - You Absolute Unit
Today is a somber day for science. After 57 years of dutiful service, we bid farewell to one of the literal giants of space explorations, the Arecibo space telescope, a scientific world wonder that once and for all proved that size does matter.
Nestled in the bushy jungle of Puerto Rico, the Arecibo Observatory is one of the most impressive human constructions ever made. For fifty years, the 900-ton beast possessed the biggest dish in all of dishdom, spanning a whopping 307 meters (336 yards), which gave the big boy an unprecedented sensitivity when probing the velvety confines of outer space. This made Arecibo the premier destination for scientists scanning for potential "you up?" messages from alien civilizations, over which they got prematurely excited a couple of times.
But yesterday, the National Science Foundation announced that the telescopic behemoth would be subject to a controlled decommission over the next few weeks. While Arecibo was able to weather countless hurricanes and quakes, it was this heft that eventually proved to be its downfall. Well hung off three thick poles, time has ravaged its ability to stay erect. And after two recent cable breaks, it was determined that "if an additional main cable fails, a catastrophic collapse of the entire structure will soon follow" and that attempting to reinvigorate the telescope to its former glory was too risky.
Film fans will not just mourn Arecibo for its contributions to science but also to its stellar cinematic performances. Its striking design has featured in many a sci-fi epic, including Species, Contact, and The X-Files. But its long shafts and thick top will be best remembered from the climactic scene in Goldeneye, its pole serving as Sean Bean's most memorable death -- and there are a lot of those to choose from.
So shed a tear for the Arecibo Observatory. For the next weeks, the flags of science will be flying at half-mast as we swallow your loss. Goodbye, you magnificent tool of science. You tripod of a telescope. You girthy donkey-dick of scientific contributions.
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Top Image: MGM, JidoBG/Wikimedia Commons