Huge Puerto Rico Telescope Collapses

The Massive Radio Telescope From Golden Eye Just Collapsed

The Massive Radio Telescope From Golden Eye Just Collapsed

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) said the telescope's 900-ton instrument platform fell onto a reflector dish some 450ft (137m) below.

Friedman said he saw a cloud of dust hang in the air where the structure once stood.

Aerial view of damage at the Arecibo Observatory on 1 Dec 2020.

"We can confirm the platform fell and that we have reports of no injuries".

The collapse stunned many scientists who had relied on what was until recently the largest radio telescope in the world.

It was also featured in two U.S. films, GoldenEye starring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond and released in 1995, and Contact, with actors Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey two years later.

Abel Mendez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, said the platform collapsed shortly before 8:00am (1200 GMT). "I knew exactly what it was", said Jonathan Friedman, who worked for 26 years as a researcher at the observatory and still lives near it.

Huge, already damaged radio telescope collapses in Puerto Rico

Deborah Martorell, a senior meteorologist for WAPA TV and Puerto Rico's El Nuevo Dia outlet, told the newspaper on Tuesday that bureaucracy and a delay in action from the NSF helped to bring about the telescope's end. "It is an icon for our island".

The NSF revealed in a Tuesday release that the 305-meter telescope collapsed at approximately 7:55 a.m. local time, and that since the structure gave way, officials have launched an investigation to conduct a damage assessment and mitigate any environmental damages.

The collapse wasn't a surprise because numerous wires in the thick cables holding the structure snapped over the weekend, Ángel Vázquez, the telescope's director of operations, told AP.

The Arecibo Observatory space telescope, seen in a satellite image taken over Arecibo, Puerto Rico [File: Planet/Handout via Reuters] Two cables supporting the reflector dish had broken since August, leaving a gash in the dish and making the site unsafe, forcing officials to close the observatory. A second cable broke on November 6.

The observatory's website said the telescope was "a world-leading radio astronomy, solar system radar and atmospheric physics facility, contributing highly relevant data to support discovery, innovation and the advancement of science".

The NSF said it was "saddened" by the collapse and would be "looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico".

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