The giant Arecibo telescope collapsed

The giant Arecibo telescope after its collapse in Puerto Rico on December 1, 2020. RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP

It was one of the most famous telescopes on the planet. On the American island of Puerto Rico, the Arecibo radio telescope, used by astronomers around the world and which had made it possible to discover the first planets orbiting a star other than the Sun, collapsed on Tuesday 1is December after fifty-seven years of service. “The platform collapsed unplanned”, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Robert James Margetta,

the American agency that finances the observatory.

Two of the cables supporting the telescope’s 900 tonnes of instruments on a platform above the 305-meter-diameter parabola had broken on August 10 and November 6, for an unknown cause. The falling cables had pierced the satellite dish.

The telescope was then deemed too unstable and unrepairable. The institution had made the decision to demolish the structure. Access had since been banned, due to fears of a sudden collapse, which ultimately happened shortly before 8 a.m. local time on Tuesday.

“An absolute disaster”

“It’s an absolute disaster”, reacted, moved, Professor Abel Méndez, director of the planetary habitability laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico, to AFP. “Many students were trained in astronomy in the observatory, this is what gives them the inspiration to make a career in science or in astronomy, like me”, he added.

All the astronomers on the planet could request a portion of time from the radio telescope to make their observations, at a distance. “Even from China”, said Abel Méndez.

Unlike optical telescopes, radio telescopes operate day and night, even in cloudy weather.

That of Arecibo was also one of the main radars for observing asteroids approaching Earth as part of the NASA planetary defense program. The US space agency has access to at least one other radar, but less powerful.

“Contact” and “GoldenEye”

It is also a sad symbol of the deterioration of the situation on American territory, severely hit in recent years by hurricanes and whose infrastructure is slow to be rebuilt. Even if we do not know at this stage the cause of the breakage of the cables. “The loss of Arecibo is a great loss for the world, but even more for Puerto Rico. It is an icon of our island ”, lamented Abel Méndez.

This radio telescope was one of the largest in the world; mythical, it was the place from the movie Contact, in which an astronomer played by Jodie Foster used the observatory in her quest for extraterrestrial signals. An action scene from the film GoldenEye had also taken place above the telescope.

In 1992, it was thanks to him that the first exoplanets, outside the Solar System, were discovered. The first maps of the surface of Venus were made thanks to him.

Astronomers had known for several weeks that Arecibo’s list of discoveries would not grow longer. Many shared their sadness Tuesday on Twitter.

The World with AFP

These were the details of the news The giant Arecibo telescope collapsed for this day. We hope that we have succeeded by giving you the full details and information. To follow all our news, you can subscribe to the alerts system or to one of our different systems to provide you with all that is new.

It is also worth noting that the original news has been published and is available at and the editorial team at AlKhaleej Today has confirmed it and it has been modified, and it may have been completely transferred or quoted from it and you can read and follow this news from its main source.