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Massive telescope collapse caught on remote camera and drone in Puerto Rico


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released new footage of the collapse of the Arecibo telescope platform in Puerto Rico.

The 57-year-old radio telescope suffered major damage in August when one of the cables supporting the platform snapped. Another cable snapped in early November.

Then, on Tuesday, the entire platform came crashing 122 metres onto the dish below.

The telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, was once the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. Seen here in better days, it was already set to be decommissioned following irreparable damage earlier in 2020. (Arecibo Observatory)

“We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement. “When engineers advised NSF that the structure was unstable and presented a danger to work teams and Arecibo staff, we took their warnings seriously.”

The telescope has been used to track asteroids on a path to Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize and determine if a planet is potentially habitable. It also served as a training ground for graduate students and drew about 90,000 visitors a year.

“I am one of those students who visited it when young and got inspired,” said Abel Mendez, a physics and astrobiology professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo who has used the telescope for research. “The world without the observatory loses, but Puerto Rico loses even more.”

Arecibo has also been featured in movies such as Contact and the James Bond film GoldenEye.