Iconic Telescope Has Collapsed

Officials: Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has met its end after auxiliary cable broke in August
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2020 9:02 AM CST
Iconic Telescope Has Collapsed
In this Aug. 11, 2020, file photo, damage to the radio telescope's reflector dish is shown in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.   (Arecibo Observatory via AP)

The scientific community and stargazers at large had been trying to save an iconic radio telescope, but those efforts have now come to an end after Puerto Rico officials announced the telescope has collapsed. Per CBS News, the huge Arecibo Observatory fell to its ruin Tuesday, less than two weeks after the National Science Foundation said it was taking the telescope out of commission for safety reasons. An auxiliary cable had broken in August, creating a 100-foot gash in the observatory's reflector dish, and last month, a main cable failed. Now, astronomy buffs are mourning the demise of the world's second-largest radio telescope, up and running for nearly 60 years, with many posting emotional tributes.

"Friends, it is with deep regret to inform you that the Arecibo Observatory platform has just collapsed," meteorologist Deborah Martorell tweeted early Tuesday, showing an image of the site, where dust floated in the air. Per Gizmodo, Martorell's photo seems to show the observatory's three support towers—which could've damaged other buildings at the site if they'd fallen—still standing. "It sounded like a rumble," senior research associate Jonathan Friedman, who lives near the telescope, tells the AP. "I knew exactly what it was. I was screaming. ... It's a very deep, terrible feeling." The telescope had been used for such tasks as tracking asteroids, assessing planets' habitability, studying pulsars, and searching for neutral hydrogen. It's not clear who was in the area when the radio dish fell. There's so far been no comment from observatory reps. (More radio telescope stories.)

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