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article imagePetition to White House requests action to save Arecibo telescope

By Karen Graham     Nov 27, 2020 in Science
After it was decided to demolish the iconic Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, scientists, experts, and many Puerto Ricans have taken to digital platforms to plead with the government to save the 57-year-old observatory.
Last week, The National Science Foundation made the difficult decision to demolish the iconic Arecibo radio-telescope after engineers determined the structure is currently at serious risk of an unexpected, uncontrolled collapse.
In an effort to save the 57-year-old telescope, scientists, teachers, and students are using the #WhatAreciboMeansToMe hashtag to share the observatory's impact in their lives and the scientific world. A Twitter account called Save the Arecibo Observatory has also been created, reports ABC News.
Organizations are also joining the conversation on social media, like the Planetary Society. "Arecibo Observatory touched the lives of so many people. Its scientific achievements enriched our understanding of the universe and helped protect our planet from asteroids," the organization said in a tweet.
Students at the Arecibo Observatory Space Academy, led by Wilbert Ruperto-Hernández, a graduate of the academy, began a campaign to rally support for the observatory, citing both its scientific work and its standing in Puerto Rico, where it's the most prominent scientific facility.
This has resulted in a formal White House petition asking the federal government to intervene, specifically requesting the deployment of the Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate the telescope and look for a way to stabilize it. As of today, only 70, 90, 906 signatures are still needed.
When the petition reaches 100,000 signatures by December 21, 2020, the White House will owe the team a response within two months. The group intends to reach out to Congress as well. Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico's resident commissioner, is also taking action, sending a letter to Congress last week to request funds to make repairs.
"You're not going to the observatory to see things on the walls," Ruperto-Hernández said, describing the moment when visitors step outside and look out on the famous dish, which has made cameos in the Hollywood movies "GoldenEye" and "Contact." "People are not going to go to the Arecibo Observatory to see the remains of it."
And while scientists would certainly suffer in that scenario, he said, they wouldn't be alone. "I think the biggest loser will be Puerto Rico," Ruperto-Hernández said. "We'll lose that inspiration and the source of our dreams."
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