Aerial view of telescope with 30m aperture in parabola on November 19, 2020 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico (AFP / Ricardo ARDUENGO)
Puerto Rico’s famous Arecibo telescope collapsed on Tuesday after 57 years of service, a spokesman for the US National Science Foundation and local astronomer told AFP.
“The platform (observatory, ed.) Collapsed in an unplanned way,” confirmed Rob Margetta, spokesman for the institution financing the observatory.
Two cables supporting 900-ton telescopic instruments above a 305-meter parabola broke on August 10 and November 6, prompting the US National Science Foundation to announce its dismantling.
Access to the telescope has since been denied for fear it will collapse. Only drones checked the structure. Consequently, no injuries were reported.
The collapse of the observatory “is an absolute catastrophe,” said a touched Professor Abel Méndez, director of the Planetary Adaptation Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo, at AFP.
The astronomer had to cancel his training at the observatory next year, which was a blow to his students.
“It’s a sad day for astronomy,” several astronomers and scientists commented on Twitter.
It is also a sad symbol of the worsening situation on the American island, which has been hit hard by hurricanes in recent years and whose infrastructure is slowly recovering. Even if we do not know the cause of the cable break at this stage.
The radio telescope, a tool for many astronomical discoveries, was one of the largest in the world.
The announcement of its dismantling touched – already – many professional and amateur astronomy, especially on Twitter under the hashtag “WhatAreciboMeansToMe” (which means Arecibo to me).
“It’s more than a telescope, Arecibo is the same reason I do astronomy,” said Kevin Ortiz Ceballos, a local astronomer.
An action scene from James Bond’s “GoldenEye” was played over the telescope, and in the film “Contact,” astronomer Jodie Foster used the observatory to search for alien signals.
vgr / ico