December 1, 2020

By Joey Roulette

(Reuters) – The massive telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory that had been deteriorating since August collapsed on Tuesday, officials said, after 57 years of astronomical discoveries.

The radio telescope’s 900-ton instrument platform, suspended by cables 450 feet (137 meters) above a 1,000-foot-wide (305 meters) bowl-shaped reflector dish, fell on Tuesday morning, the U.S. National Science Foundation said. No injuries were reported, it added.

The telescope, one of the largest in the world, had been used by scientists around the world for decades to study distant planets, find potentially hazardous asteroids and hunt for potential signatures of extraterrestrial life.

Two cables supporting the reflector dish had broken since August, causing damage and forcing officials to close the observatory. The NSF, which helped manage the telescope, said in November that efforts to repair the structure would be too dangerous and therefore it would have to be demolished.

“NSF is saddened by this development,” the independent federal agency wrote on Twitter. “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.”

(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)

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