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Arecibo Observatory: Media Resources


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Arecibo Observatory

Stewarded by U.S. National Science Foundation since the 1970s, Arecibo Observatory has contributed to scientific discoveries including the demonstration of gravitational waves from a binary pulsar and the first discovery of an extrasolar planet. In 2020, Arecibo Observatory's 305-meter telescope collapsed. Information about the collapse and NSF's efforts to address the damage and restore other parts of the observatory can be found on this page. Reporters with questions should contact NSF's Media Affairs team at media@nsf.gov or 703-292-7090.


Latest Updates

03/31/21

Registration is now available for online attendance of a public meeting on anticipated truck traffic related to debris removal from the Arecibo Observatory. The meeting, hosted by The National Science Foundation (NSF), University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Arecibo Observatory (AO) will be held April 5 at 6:00 p.m., AST.

Use this link to register in advance for the webinar. If you have any issues, please contact Arecibo-feedback@nsf.gov. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

On March 15, 2020, crews began transporting a small number of loads carrying debris from the Arecibo Observatory to a recycling facility. The number of loads carrying debris will increase during the first week of April and continue through June 2021, or shortly thereafter. All debris is from the December 2020 collapse of its 305-meter telescope. The removal will advance the ongoing cleanup activities as the National Science Foundation (NSF), which owns the Observatory, and the University of Central Florida (UCF), which operates it, work to restore remaining capabilities to operations.

Information about the debris removal, including the full transportation plan is available on NSF’s website. Members of the community with questions about the transportation plan can contact Arecibo-feedback@nsf.gov. Members of the media should contact NSF at media@nsf.gov or 703-292-7090.

Why is this material being removed? Initial removal of materials from the Observatory will create staging areas for additional cleanup work at the site.  Later removal of materials will be for long-term cleanup; disposal will include recycling for as much of the material as possible.  Material potentially useful for future scientific operations will be retained and samples important for the ongoing forensic investigation to more fully understand the cause of the collapse will be kept on-site.  A salvage survey committee, which includes representatives from Arecibo Observatory, the Smithsonian Institution and universities in Puerto Rico, is screening debris to identify objects for potential scientific reuse, cultural or historic value, or possible display at the site or other museums. See information about historic preservation at the Observatory for more information. 

How and when will it be removed? The materials will be moved via hauling trucks, 40-60 yard trailers, all of which have integrated tarps to cover each load. Transportation of materials and work vehicles can be expected Mondays-Saturdays between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. with peak traffic between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.  We anticipate hauling debris and returning to Arecibo each day. It is estimated work for this part of the project will continue through June or shortly thereafter.

What kinds of materials will be removed? Materials removed from the site will include soil as well as scrap metal and concrete, mostly from the telescope’s instrument platform and its supporting structure.

Will this create traffic? Hauling of materials is not expected to create any significant increase in local traffic. Transportation is expected to involve 3-4 trucks making approximately two round-trips per day, departing the Observatory intermittently, not large convoys (maximum four trucks).

Will this involve road closures or detours? No. The transportation plan involves only a small number of trucks per day operating in normal traffic.

Could this damage roads? This work is not expected to have any negative impact. NSF and UCF are coordinating with local officials to address any potential issues.

How noisy will this be? This work is not expected to generate significant noise beyond the sound of 3-4 trucks making approximately two round-trips per day, as the loading of debris will take place on the Arecibo Observatory site.

What do I do if I see debris in the road, on my property or elsewhere? Call or text 787-246-4200 for assistance and the debris will be retrieved. Do not attempt to remove debris yourself, as it may be heavy or have sharp edges.

Where is the debris going? The material will be hauled to recycling facilities and landfills in Puerto Rico.

Is any of this material being transported hazardous? No. The materials have been tested and identified as non-hazardous waste. Soil that was affected by a release of hydraulic fluid during the collapse of the dish has already been excavated and will be removed from the Observatory through a separate process. Workers will continue to test all materials identified for disposal.

Why can’t this work be done at night? For the safety of our drivers and community members living alongside the steep road to Arecibo, it is necessary to do the work in the daytime. The curvy, steep and narrow road poses an additional hazard at night.

Why remove this material? Could it be sold or archived? The materials being removed are mostly pieces of the 305-meter telescope’s suspended platform. As such, much of the debris is bulky and jagged. NSF and UCF are screening debris during the sorting process in order to retain materials that could be of use in science operations and any objects of potential historical importance.  See information about historic preservation at the Observatoryfor additional information on the salvage process. 

Is Arecibo Observatory open? The Observatory is only open to approved operations and scientific staff, and to the workers performing cleanup, environmental and historical assessment duties. This debris transportation process is part of the effort to fully reopen the Observatory, including the Visitor Center, to the public as soon as possible.

El 15 de marzo de 2020, los equipos comenzaron a transportar una pequeña cantidad de cargas con escombros desde el Observatorio de Arecibo a una facilidad de reciclaje. La cantidad de cargas que transportan escombros aumentará durante la primera semana de abril y continuará hasta junio de 2021, o poco después. Todos los escombros son del colapso de diciembre de 2020 de su telescopio de 305 metros. La remoción avanzará las actividades de limpieza en curso, ya que la Fundación Nacional de las Ciencias (NSF), propietaria del Observatorio, y la Universidad de la Florida Central (UCF), que lo opera, trabajan para restaurar las capacidades restantes y poder operarlas.

La información sobre la remoción de los escombros, incluyendo el plan de transportación completo, está disponible en la página de internet de NSF. Los miembros de la comunidad que tengan preguntas sobre el plan de transportación pueden comunicarse a través de Arecibo-feedback@nsf.gov. Los miembros de los medios de comunicación deben comunicarse con NSF a través de media@nsf.gov ó al 703-292-7090.

¿Por qué se está removiendo este material? La remoción inicial de materiales del Observatorio creará áreas de preparación para trabajos de limpieza adicionales en el sitio. La remoción posterior de materiales será para limpieza a largo plazo; la disposición incluirá el reciclaje de la mayor cantidad posible de material. Se conservará el material potencialmente útil para futuras operaciones científicas y se mantendrán en el lugar muestras importantes para la investigación forense en curso para comprender mejor la causa del colapso. Un comité de inspección de salvamento, que incluye a representantes del Observatorio de Arecibo, la Institución Smithsonian y universidades en Puerto Rico, está revisando los escombros para identificar objetos de potencial científico para su posible reutilización, y artículos de valor cultural o histórico que se conservarán para su posible exhibición en el sitio u otros museos. Vea la información sobre la preservación histórica en el Observatorio para más información.

¿Cómo y cuándo se eliminará? Los materiales se moverán a través de camiones de transporte, remolques de 40 a 60 yardas, todos los cuales tienen lonas integradas para cubrir cada carga. Se puede esperar el transporte de materiales y vehículos de trabajo de lunes a sábado entre las 7 a.m. y las 4 p.m. con tráfico pico entre las 9 a.m. y las 3 p.m. Anticipamos transportar escombros y regresar a Arecibo todos los días. Se estima que el trabajo para esta parte del proyecto continuará hasta junio o poco después.

¿Qué tipo de materiales se removerán? Los materiales removidos del sitio incluirán suelo, chatarra y hormigón, principalmente de la plataforma de instrumentos del telescopio y su estructura de soporte.

¿Esto creará tráfico? No se espera que el transporte de materiales genere un aumento significativo en el tráfico local. Se espera que el transporte involucre de 3 a 4 camiones haciendo aproximadamente dos viajes de ida y vuelta por día, saliendo del Observatorio de manera intermitente, no como grupos grandes (máximo cuatro camiones).

¿Esto implicará cierres de carreteras o desvíos? No. El plan de transporte involucra solo una pequeña cantidad de camiones por día operando en el tráfico normal.

¿Podría esto dañar las carreteras? No se espera que este trabajo tenga ningún impacto negativo. NSF y UCF se están coordinando con los funcionarios locales para atender los problemas potenciales.

¿Qué tan ruidoso será esto? No se espera que este trabajo genere un ruido significativo más allá del sonido de 3-4 camiones que realizaran aproximadamente dos viajes de ida y vuelta por día, ya que la carga de escombros se llevará a cabo en el sitio del Observatorio de Arecibo.

¿Qué hago si veo escombros en la carretera, en mi propiedad o en otro lugar? Llame o envíe un mensaje de texto al 787-246-4200 para obtener ayuda y se recuperarán los escombros. No intente quitar los escombros usted mismo, ya que pueden ser pesados o tener bordes afilados.

¿A dónde van los escombros? El material será transportado a facilidades de reciclaje y vertederos en Puerto Rico.

¿Alguno de este material transportado es peligroso? No. Los materiales han sido probados e identificados como desperdicios no peligrosos. El suelo que fue afectado por una liberación de fluido hidráulico durante el colapso del plato ha sido excavado y será retirado del Observatorio en cargas separadas. Los trabajadores continuarán muestreando todos los materiales identificados para su disposición.

¿Por qué no se puede hacer este trabajo de noche? Para la seguridad de nuestros conductores y miembros de la comunidad que viven junto a la empinada carretera hacia Arecibo, es necesario hacer el trabajo durante el día. La carretera con curvas, empinada y estrecha representa un peligro adicional durante la noche.

¿Por qué remover este material? ¿Podría venderse o archivarse? Los materiales que se están removiendo son en su mayoría piezas de la plataforma suspendida del telescopio de 305 metros. Como tal, muchos de los escombros son voluminosos e irregulares. NSF y UCF están examinando los escombros durante el proceso de clasificación para retener materiales que podrían ser de utilidad en operaciones científicas y cualquier objeto de posible importancia histórica. Vea la información sobre la preservación histórica en el Observatorio para obtener información adicional sobre el proceso de salvamento.

¿Está abierto el Observatorio de Arecibo? El Observatorio solo está abierto al personal de operaciones y científico autorizado, así como a los trabajadores que realizan tareas de limpieza, evaluación ambiental e histórica. Este proceso de transporte de escombros es parte del esfuerzo para reabrir el Observatorio, incluido el Centro de Visitantes, al público lo antes posible.

03/25/21

Engineering firms operating at the site of the Arecibo Observatory’s collapsed 305-meter telescope have produced a transportation plan for the removal of debris. The plan will be discussed at an April 5 public meeting, accessible in-person or virtually. See below for details. The plan's executive summary is also available in Spanish.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Arecibo Observatory (AO) will be hosting a public meeting to inform the local community of anticipated truck traffic related to debris removal from the Arecibo Observatory. Interested members of the public are invited to attend the meeting.

The public meeting will be held April 5 at 6:00 p.m., AST, both virtually and in-person.

Location: Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico, Capítulo de Arecibo
Paseo Los Olmos, Arecibo, PR 00612

The meeting will be held in both Spanish and English. COVID-19 protocols will be followed during the in-person meeting, including temperature checks. Attendees must wear a mask or face covering, practice six-foot social distancing at all times, and use hand sanitizer as preventive measures.


La Fundación Nacional de las Ciencias (NSF, por sus siglas en inglés), la Universidad de la Florida Central (UCF, por sus siglas en inglés) y el Observatorio de Arecibo (AO, por sus siglas en inglés) estarán llevando a cabo una reunión pública para informar a la comunidad local sobre el tráfico de camiones anticipado debido a la remoción de escombros del Observatorio de Arecibo. Se invita a los miembros del público interesados a asistir a la reunión.

La reunión pública se llevará a cabo el lunes, 5 de abril a las 6:00 PM, tanto en persona como de manera virtual.

Lugar: o Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico, Capítulo de Arecibo
Paseo Los Olmos, Arecibo, PR 00612

La reunión se llevará a cabo en inglés y en español. Se seguirán los protocolos de COVID-19 durante la reunión en persona, incluyendo la toma de temperatura. Los asistentes deben llevar mascarilla o cubierta de cara, practicar 6 pies de distanciamiento social en todo momento y utilizar desinfectante de manos como medidas preventivas.

03/11/21

New Workshop Dear Colleague Letter

  • NSF has posted a Dear Colleague Letter advising the research community of a planned workshop focused on finding actionable and innovative ways to support, broaden, and strengthen the radio science community across all of Puerto Rico and to create or enhance opportunities for science and educational and cultural activities and public outreach at the Arecibo Observatory.

Environmental Cleanup and Historic Preservation

  • Ensuring safety has continued to be NSF's top priority. This includes not only the safety of personnel on the site, but also the safety of the environment in the area. NSF, the University of Central Florida (UCF), and a team of contractors that includes environmental specialists have been working since the December 1st collapse to communicate with regulatory agencies and to identify environmental compliance requirements, including those related to pollution prevention, sampling and analysis, and biological resources.
  • Cleanup work has included soil sampling and excavation to remove soil impacted by hydraulic oil released during the collapse, as well as the development and implementation of plans for the sampling and analysis of soil, groundwater, and surface water and a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan to prevent sediment and pollutants from migrating offsite. Biologists are conducting wildlife and vegetation surveys to inform protection measures relating to species of concern.
  • NSF and UCF continue their work to address concerns about historical and cultural preservation. NSF has been in contact with the Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Office (PR SHPO) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) since the day of the collapse to consult on the protection and preservation of historically important elements of the structures and site. NSF will continue to provide ACHP with updates.
  • Recognizing that there is interest in preserving identifiable remains of the contributing resources of the historic district as well as scientific equipment that could be reused, at NSF's direction, UCF has established the Salvage Survey Committee tasked with screening the debris to identify objects of potential scientific, cultural, or historic value to be preserved for potential display at the site or other museums.
  • More information on Environmental Cleanup can be found on NSF's Environmental Cleanup and Historic Preservation site.

03/03/21

  • NSF has provided a report to Congress, as required by the report language accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, describing "the causes and extent of the damage, the plan to remove debris in a safe and environmentally sound way, the preservation of the associated AO facilities and surrounding areas, and the process for determining whether to establish comparable technology at the site, along with any associated cost estimates." The investigation of the collapse and exploration of future opportunities for Arecibo is ongoing. Read the report here.

Multimedia Resources

Video Footage of Collapse Arecibo Observatory

305-meter telescope collapsing, release 12/03/20. See captioning and crediting information here.

Video B-Roll footage of Pre Collapse Arecibo Observatory

NSF Arecibo Update Media Briefing Audio and Transcript

Media briefing on Dec 3, 2020 Download Transcript

NSF Arecibo Decommissioning Media Briefing Audio and Transcript

Media briefing on Nov 19, 2020 Download Transcript