Arecibo radio telescope collapses in dramatic platform fall
In a dramatic ending, the famous 1,000-ft Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico collapsed this Tuesday at about 7:55 am local time. The 900-ton instrument platform fell and crashed into the dish from a height of 492 ft.
According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), there were no injuries reported. On November 6, an area around what was at one time the largest single-dish telescope in the world had been declared off-limits to unauthorized personnel after a cable failed.
A previous cable failure in August severely damaged the fragile mesh dish. On November 19, the decision to dismantle the giant radio telescope had been announced after an engineering survey found that the structure was dangerously unstable.
This week's collapse occurred when the tops of all three support towers broke away, dropping the platform and its support cables, though the exact cause will require a full investigation. In the collapse, the observatory's learning center is reported to have suffered significant damage.
"We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt," says NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "When engineers advised the NSF that the structure was unstable and presented a danger to work teams and Arecibo staff, we took their warnings seriously and continued to emphasize the importance of safety for everyone involved. Our focus is now on assessing the damage, finding ways to restore operations at other parts of the observatory, and working to continue supporting the scientific community, and the people of Puerto Rico."