Photograph by Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
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Technician Luis Heredia checks some the cables which suspend the receiver over the radio telescope dish at Arecibo Observatory in 1989.

Iconic radio telescope in Puerto Rico to be demolished

After two support cables broke at Arecibo Observatory, the facility is in danger of a catastrophic collapse, prompting the National Science Foundation to decommission the telescope.

Editor's Note, November 30: Arecibo Observatory’s suspended platform collapsed around 8 a.m. local time. No one was hurt, according to observatory guards.

It’s game over for the Arecibo Observatory, home to an iconic, thousand-foot-wide radio telescope near Puerto Rico’s northern shore. Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that it is decommissioning the massive 57-year-old telescope. The agency also intends to demolish the instrument, which is teetering on the verge of collapse.

“As someone who was inspired as a child by the observatory to reach for the stars, this is devastating and heartbreaking. I’ve seen how the observatory to this day continues to inspire my island,” writes Edgard Rivera-Valentín of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in a direct message on Twitter to National Geographic.

The decision comes after a tough few months for the observatory. Engineers were trying to stabilize the telescope after two of the cables suspending its 900-ton platform broke. With additional cables showing signs of weakening and degradation, worries were growing that the platform could fall roughly 450 feet, crashing through the dish and into the jungle...

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