A large telescope that for decades helped to transform scientists’ understanding of astronomical phenomena collapsed Tuesday in Puerto Rico, according to the National Science Foundation.
Last month, NSF officials announced plans to decommission the iconic Arecibo Observatory telescope because of several snapped support cables. However, authorities said Tuesday that the instrument platform of the 305-meter telescope fell overnight. Officials told The Associated Press that the telescope’s 900-ton platform fell more than 400 feet onto the reflector dish.
“It sounded like a rumble. I knew exactly what it was,” Jonathan Friedman, who worked for 26 years as a senior research associate at the observatory and still lives near it, told the AP. “I was screaming. Personally, I was out of control. … I don’t have words to express it. It’s a very deep, terrible feeling.”
Photos of the damage showed the tops of three towers that supported the telescope’s platform were also damaged, according to National Geographic.
No injuries were reported.
The Arecibo Observatory had been closed since August after a cable snapped, causing a 100-foot gash on the 1,000-foot-wide dish, WFTV reported. Officials later determined the observatory couldn’t be stabilized after a main cable broke in early November.
The observatory, built in the 1960s, was used in the 1995 James Bond film “GoldenEye” and the 1997 film “Contact,” based on the book by planetary scientist Carl Sagan. Its telescope was the largest of its kind in the world until 2016.
“The world without the observatory loses, but Puerto Rico loses even more,” Abel Mendez, a physics and astrobiology professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, told the AP.
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