The following is an open letter, dated 4 December 2020, on the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The letter has been lightly edited for style. The video below is courtesy of Carlos Pérez.
Positional statement on the recovery of Arecibo scientific assets
The terrible events regarding the Arecibo platform collapse have deeply impacted the national and international scientific community. In particular, there has been widespread and understandably intense shock and grief at the catastrophic loss of all the equipment located on the Arecibo platform for radio astronomy, planetary radar, and atmospheric science.
However, preliminary assessments have indicated that significant observatory resources located on the ground near the Arecibo reflector are not completely destroyed. These items have great potential for future scientific observations and should not be immediately consigned to materials recycling without an assessment of salvage potential and a subsequent plan for careful extraction and preservation of material that still has productivity. For instance, some of the HF heating facility antennas on the bottom of the dish are still standing. The HF facility’s transmission lines are intact below the damaged reflector panels. Aside from the area of main platform impact, the reflector ground screen is untouched. Reflector use at lower frequencies may be possible at reduced effective gain with relatively modest repairs using existing panel material already on site. Most of the supporting reflector cables and panels are still in place. HF and UHF transmitters, modulators, control hardware, data servers, generators, and other ground equipment remain intact in buildings 1 and 2, the optics facility, the 12 m very long baseline interferometry telescope area, the main warehouse, and other areas away from the main reflector.
For these reasons, we strongly advise that during post-collapse site cleanup, a carefully considered and deliberate course of action should be taken that protects remaining Arecibo equipment and assets that were not severely or irreparably damaged by the platform’s collapse. Preservation of these assets is a key step to allowing portions of the Arecibo radio science portfolio to be restored in innovative ways through future community proposals and other efforts. This approach will truly make the best out of the current situation, with direct benefit to human science explorations of our planet’s atmosphere and the universe.
The 85 signatories (as of 14 December) come from around the world and are mostly users of Arecibo.
Jorge L. Herrera
Dale C. Ferguson
Ashton S. Reimer
Richard L. Ferranti
Luisa Fernanda Zambrano-Marin
James P. Conroy
Trond S. Trondsen
Cissi Ying-tsen Lin
Michael W. Busch
Kevin Ortiz Ceballos
Philip J. Erickson
Angeline G. Burrell
Wilbert Ruperto Hernández
Christiano Garnett Marques Brum
Amanda Dawn Christie