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Once the world's largest telescope, the Arecibo was, for five decades, the world's largest single-aperture telescope, used to find asteroids and discover far-off planets.
Officials have indicated that, after 57 years of astronomical discoveries, the massive telescope on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, Arecibo, collapsed on Tuesday after facing significant deterioration since late August.
On Tuesday morning, the independent United States' National Science Foundation reported that the radio telescope’s 900-ton instrument platform, suspended by cables 450 feet above a 1,000-foot bowl-shaped reflector dish, fell and that no injuries were reported.
One of the world's largest telescope, Arecibo has been used by scientists worldwide for decades to study distant planets, hunt for potentially significant signs of extraterrestrial life and find potentially hazardous asteroids.
The telescope was also featured in two U.S. films, GoldenEye, featuring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, in 1995, and Contact, with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey, released in 1997 years later.
Officials were forced to close the observatory in August after two cables supporting the reflector dish broke, making the site unsafe. The National Science Foundation, which helps to manage the site, said the site would have to be demolished as the efforts to repair the structure would prove too dangerous.
The independent federal agency wrote on Twitter: “NSF is saddened by this development,. As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico.”
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. pic.twitter.com/Xjbb9hPUgD
After announcing the telescope's closure last month, the agency stated: "The telescope serves as an inspiration for Puerto Ricans considering education and employment in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics].”
Michael Wiltberger, head of NSF’s Geospace Section, said the observatory “has helped transform our understanding of the ionosphere, showing us how density, composition and other factors interact to shape this critical region where Earth’s atmosphere meets space."
Although the NSF plans to dismantle the site, it stated that it hopes to "retain as much as possible of the remaining infrastructure of Arecibo Observatory, so that it remains available for future research and educational missions."