Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory ‘Not Closing’ After Telescope Collapse

Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory could still have a future after its vast telescope dramatically collapsed this week, US officials said Thursday.

The structure was destroyed on Tuesday when its 900-ton receiver platform, which was suspended 450 feet (140 metres) in the air, fell loose and plunged onto the radio dish below.

Ralph Gaume, director of the US National Science Foundation’s division of astronomical sciences, said “the NSF is not closing the Arecibo Observatory.”

“The NSF is deeply saddened by the situation,” he told reporters, adding that the agency “has a very well-defined process for funding and constructing large-scale infrastructure including telescopes… it’s very early for us to comment on the replacement.”

Engineers had recently warned of the telescope’s decrepit condition, and the NSF announced only last month that it would be dismantled.

Two of the cables that held the platform over the radio dish, which measures 1,000 feet (300 metres) in diameter, had snapped this year, and the structure finally gave way on Tuesday morning.

Video footage showed the final cables breaking, and the platform swinging down onto the radio dish before a cloud of dust erupts.

The telescope was one of the largest in the world and has been a tool for many astronomical discoveries since the 1960s.

An action scene from the James Bond film GoldenEye featuring Pierce Brosnan was filming at the site. 

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