ARECIBO

September 27, 2017


Hurricane Maria, as you well know, has caused massive damage to the island of Puerto Rico.  At this writing, the entire island is without power and is struggling to exist without water, telephone communication, health and sanitation facilities.   The digital pictures below will give some indication as to the devastation.

Maria made landfall in the southeastern part of the U.S. territory Wednesday with winds reaching 155 miles per hour, knocking out electricity across the island. An amazingly strong wind devastated the storm flooded parts of downtown San Juan, downed trees and ripped the roofs from homes. Puerto Rico has little financial wherewithal to navigate a major catastrophe, given its decision in May to seek protection from creditors after a decade of economic decline, excessive borrowing and the loss of residents to the U.S. mainland.  Right now, PR is totally dependent upon the United States for recovery.

Imagine winds strong enough to damage and position an automobile in the fashion shown above.  I cannot even tell the make of this car but we must assume it weighs at least two thousand pounds and yet it is thrown in the air like a paper plane.

One huge issue is clearing roads so supplies for relief and medical attention can be delivered to the people.  This is a huge task.

One question I had—how about Arecibo?  Did the radio telescope survive and if so, what damages were sustained?  The digital below will show Arecibo Radio Telescope during “better times”.

Five decades ago, scientists sought a radio telescope that was close to the equator, according to Arecibo’s website. This location would allow the telescope to track planets passing overhead, while also probing the nature of the ionosphere — the layer of the atmosphere in which charged particles produce the northern lights.  The telescope is part of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center. The National Science Foundation has a co-operative agreement with the three entities that operate it: SRI International, the Universities Space Research Association and UMET (Metropolitan University.) That radio telescope has provided an absolute wealth of information about our solar system and surrounding and bodies outside our solar system.

The Arecibo Observatory contains the second-largest radio telescope in the world, and that telescope has been out of service ever since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. Maria hit the island as a Category 4 hurricane.

While Puerto Rico suffered catastrophic damage across the island, the Arecibo Observatory suffered “relatively minor damages,” Francisco Córdova, the director of the observatory, said in a Facebook post on Sunday (Sept. 24).

In the words of Mr. Cordova: “Still standing after #HurricaneMaria! We suffered some damages, but nothing that can’t be repaired or replaced! More updates to follow in the coming days as we complete our detailed inspections. We stand together with Puerto Rico as we recover from this storm.#PRStrong”.

Despite Córdova’s optimistic message, staff members and other residents of Puerto Rico are in a pretty bad situation. Power has yet to be restored to the island since the storm hit, and people are running out of fuel for generators. With roads still blocked by fallen trees and debris, transporting supplies to people in need is no simple task.

National Geographic’s Nadia Drake, who has been in contact with the observatory and has provided extensive updates via Twitter, reported that “some staff who have lost homes in town are moving on-site” to the facility, which weathered the storm pretty well overall. Drake also reported that the observatory “will likely be serving as a FEMA emergency center,” helping out members of the community who lost their homes in the storm.

The mission of Arecibo will continue but it may be a long time before the radio telescope is fully functional.  Let’s just hope the lives of the people manning the telescope can be put back in order quickly so important and continued work may again be accomplished.

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