Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that after two unexpected cable failures and consultations with multiple engineering experts, leadership within NSF made the difficult decision to move forward with a controlled decommissioning of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Arecibo has been known for discoveries such as the 1974 detection of binary pulsars emitting gravitational waves, which earned the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics, and the first confirmation in 1992 of planets orbiting a star other than the sun. Scientists at NASA also used Arecibo’s radar capabilities to characterize potentially hazardous asteroids.
Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) made the following statement.
“While we are saddened by the loss of the facility, we commend Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan and his team for prioritizing the lives and safety of observatory staff and repair crews throughout this process. We would like to thank the scientific community, the observatory staff, and the Puerto Rican community for their dedication to this observatory over the past six decades. Everyone involved with this facility should be proud of what you have achieved. Arecibo will be remembered for an illustrious scientific legacy. Moving forward, we encourage the National Science Foundation to continue its support for the Angel Ramos Foundation Science and Visitor Center as an active hub of STEM education and outreach programming in Puerto Rico, and to explore opportunities to use the site for exciting new science in the future.”