Officials said that after 57 years of astronomical discoveries, the large radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, one of the largest in the world, has suffered severe damage since August and collapsed on Tuesday.

The National Science Foundation said the 900-ton instrument platform of the deteriorating telescope was suspended by 450 feet (137 meters) of cables above a 1,000-foot-wide (305-meter) bowl-shaped reflector. It added that there were no reports of injuries.

The telescope receives radio waves from space. Scientists around the world have been using the telescope to find possible features of alien life, study distant planets and discover potentially dangerous asteroids. It also gained fame after the key shots in the 1995 James Bond movie “Golden Eye” starring Pierce Brosnan (Pierce Brosnan) were shot there.

Since August, the two cables supporting the reflectors have broken, causing damage and forcing officials to shut down the observatory because the engineering company reserved by the University of Central Florida, which manages the observatory, is studying ways to repair the damage.

In November, engineering reviews led NSF and the university to conclude that efforts to repair the structure were too dangerous and must be demolished.

NSF said that preliminary findings indicated that the tops of all the support towers of the three telescopes were broken, and as the instrument platform dropped, the telescope’s support cables also plummeted.

The observatory also includes other scientific assets, such as a 40-foot (12-meter) telescope for radio astronomy research and facilities for studying the Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere. The National Science Foundation said that the learning center of the observatory next to the telescope suffered severe damage from a cable drop.

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NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement: “We are sad for this situation, but thank no one was injured.” “Our focus now is to assess the damage, find ways to restore other parts of the observatory, and strive to continue to support science. And the people of Puerto Rico.”

NSF said it will authorize the university to continue to pay salaries to Arecibo employees and propose a plan to continue research at the observatory. The agency said it has not yet determined the cause of the initial cable failure in August.

© Thomson Reuters 2020


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