One of the world’s largest radio telescopes, used to monitor the stars for more than half a century, has collapsed.
The 57-year-old telescope at‘s Arecibo Observatory also featured in the film GoldenEye, when Pierce Brosnan’s 007 famously scaled the structure while grappling with Sean Bean’s traitorous 006.
Unfortunately, the telescope sustained severe damage in August and had been deteriorating since.
Its 900-tonne instrument platform, suspended by cables 137 metres above a 305-metre-wide reflector dish, fell on Tuesday morning, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) said.
Nobody was injured in the collapse.
Scientists from around the world used the telescope to look for signs of alien life, study distant planets, and monitor potentially hazardous asteroids.
Two of the cables had broken over the summer, forcing officials to close the observatory as engineers tried to work out how they could repair the damage.
Engineering reviews found it was too dangerous to repair the structure and that it would need to be demolished.
During the collapse, the top section of all three of the telescope’s support towers broke off and the support cables also plummeted as the instrument platform fell.
The observatory’s learning centre, which is next to the telescope, was severely damaged by the falling cables.
“We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt,” NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement.
“Our focus is now on assessing the damage, finding ways to restore operations at other parts of the observatory, and working to continue supporting the scientific community, and the people of Puerto Rico.”
It is not yet known why the cables broke initially over the summer.
The Arecibo Observatory is also home to a 12-metre telescope used for radio astronomy research, as well as a facility for studying the Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere.
By David Aaron
December 02, 2020