For many years, the Arecibo Telescope was used by astronomers for research in radio astronomy and atmospheric science, as well as for programs that search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). The telescope was built in 1963, and it was the world’s largest radio telescope for several decades.
An old proverb says that all things must come to an end, and it even applies to the majestic piece of technology known as the Arecibo Telescope from Puerto Rico. The announcement of the telescope’s downfall comes from the National Science Foundation itself. The telescope collapsed after its suspended receiver platform fell onto the antenna dish.
No injuries reported
Joshua Chamot, who is a spokesman for the foundation that owns the telescope at the Arecibo Observatory, said it loud and clear that the platform fell unexpectedly. The National Science Foundation issued the following statement:
The instrument platform of the 305m telescope at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico fell overnight. No injuries were reported. NSF is working with stakeholders to assess the situation. Our top priority is maintaining safety. NSF will release more details when they are confirmed.
However, the same foundation announced that the telescope has to be torn down even several days ago because an auxiliary cable slipped out of its socket. Furthermore, after evaluating multiple assessments, the conclusion was that the telescope is in danger of a catastrophic failure, and the cables may no longer be capable of carrying the loads.
What I will miss the most is the joy that we found at the Observatory. The sheer joy of sharing astronomical discovery with people from all walks of life, something we could do at Arecibo only because of where it was. It's why I decided to be an astronomer. #WhatAreciboMeansToMe pic.twitter.com/iiylRxLy8p
— Kevin Ortiz Ceballos 🇵🇷 (@kortizceballos) December 1, 2020
Not only that the observatory was reliable for radio astronomy and planetary research, but it also held enormous cultural significance for the citizens of Puerto Rico.
Before the collapse of the Arecibo Telescope, about 60,000 people demanded the federal agencies to find a way of stabilizing the structure.