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article imageArecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has collapsed

By Karen Graham     Dec 1, 2020 in Science
The huge Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico fell to its ruin Tuesday, less than two weeks after the National Science Foundation said it was taking the telescope out of commission for safety reasons.
Efforts by the scientific community and astronomy buffs to save the 57-year-old telescope have now come to an end, just two weeks after the National Science Foundation made the hard decision to take the telescope out of commission.
"It sounded like a rumble," senior research associate Jonathan Friedman, who lives near the telescope told the Associated Press. "I knew exactly what it was. I was screaming. ... It's a very deep, terrible feeling."
Cable anchoring structure for the Northern support tower  Arecibo radio telescope.
Cable anchoring structure for the Northern support tower, Arecibo radio telescope.
Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz)
The observatory had been closed since August this year after an auxiliary cable snapped and caused a 100-foot gash on the reflector dish. Soon after, in early November, a main cable snapped, leading to the NSF's decision to close the radio telescope, per CBS News.
It may be that the NSF's decision to forgo repairs was the right one. Engineering firms brought in to access the facility said the structure was at imminent risk of “catastrophic” failure, and that it couldn’t be repaired without placing construction workers in danger.
"Friends, it is with deep regret to inform you that the Arecibo Observatory platform has just collapsed," meteorologist Deborah Martorell tweeted early Tuesday, showing an image of the site, where dust floated in the air.
According to Gizmodo, the image appears to show the three support towers remain standing. This means the LIDAR facility, for example, will still be able to scan the upper atmosphere and ionosphere, assuming it wasn’t damaged in today’s collapse.
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