The celebrated Arecibo Observatory telescope in Puerto Rico, which when starred in a James Bond film, collapsed Tuesday when its 900-ton receiver platform plunged 450 feet (140 meters) onto the radio dish under.
Engineers had not too long ago warned of the big structure’s decrepit situation, and the US National Science Foundation (NSF) announced only final month that it would be dismantled.
Two of the cables that held the platform more than the radio dish — which measures 1,000 feet (300 meters) in diameter — had snapped this year, and the structure lastly gave way on Tuesday morning.
Photographs showed clouds of dust increasing into the air and the remains of the telescope instruments scattered across the internet site.
“We can confirm the platform fell and that we have reports of no injuries,” Rob Margetta, spokesman for the NSF, told AFP.
The telescope was a single of the biggest in the planet and has been a tool for several astronomical discoveries due to the fact the 1960s, as properly as getting well-known for its dramatic scale and setting.
An action scene from the Bond film “GoldenEye” featuring Pierce Brosnan took spot higher above the dish, and “Contact” an astronomer played by Jodie Foster employed the observatory in her quest for alien signals.
‘Sad day for astronomy’
Abel Mendez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, stated the platform fell some time just before 8:00am (1200 GMT), describing it as “a total disaster.”
“Many students are trained in astronomy in the observatory, they are inspired like me to do a career in science and astronomy,” he stated.
“The loss of the Arecibo telescope is a big loss for the world, but it is more of a loss for Puerto Rico. It is an icon for our island.”
The telescope was in operation for 57 years till August, and scientists had lobbied the NSF to reverse its choice to close the internet site.
In August, an auxiliary cable failed just after slipping from its socket in a single of the towers and left a one hundred-foot gash in the dish under.
Engineers have been assessing the harm and how to repair it when a primary cable connected to the identical tower broke on November 6.
Before Tuesday, a controlled demolition had been planned to steer clear of an unexpected collapse.
Among the telescope’s successes was in 1992 discovering the very first exoplanet — a planet outdoors the solar program — and in 1981 it helped generate the very first radar maps of the surface of Venus.
The observatory’s web-site stated the telescope was “a world-leading radio astronomy, solar system radar and atmospheric physics facility, contributing highly relevant data to support discovery, innovation and the advancement of science.”
“What a sad day for Astronomy and Planetary science worldwide and one of the most iconic telescopes of all time,” tweeted Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator at the NASA science mission directorate.
The internet site had hoped the dismantling strategy would preserve other components of the observatory for future investigation and education.