An iconic large telescope in Puerto Rico that’s been used for astronomical discoveries and even led to Nobel Peace Prize-winning research collapsed Tuesday ahead of its planned demolition.
The telescope’s 900 ton platform at the Arecibo Observatory plummeted into a dish underneath — causing its three support towers and cables to break off — shortly before 8 a.m., according to the National Science Foundation.
“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 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,” Panchanathan added.
In August, a cable from the 305-meter telescope broke and another one in early November. On Nov. 19, the NSF announced it would be demolishing the observatory over safety concerns.
The Arecibo Observatory had been in operation for 57 years and was used by scientists and students from all over the world for research purposes. The telescope was used in research that won a Nobel Prize in physics in 1993.
Abel Mendez, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo who teaches physics and astrobiology, said the large structure was very meaningful in his life.
“I am one of those students who visited it when young and got inspired,” Mendez said. “The world without the observatory loses, but Puerto Rico loses even more.”
With Post wires