The Arecibo Observatory’s telescope has collapsed

The collapse of its receiver platform adds another sad chapter to Arecibo’s end. Following two cable failures over the summer, on November 19th, the NSF said it had no choice but to decommission and take down the observatory due to the danger of repairing the structure.

“The decision comes after NSF evaluated multiple assessments by independent engineering companies that found the telescope structure is in danger of a catastrophic failure and its cables may no longer be capable of carrying the loads they were designed to support,” the agency said at the time.

What I will miss the most is the joy that we found at the Observatory. The sheer joy of sharing astronomical discovery with people from all walks of life, something we could do at Arecibo only because of where it was. It’s why I decided to be an astronomer. #WhatAreciboMeansToMe pic.twitter.com/iiylRxLy8p

— Kevin Ortiz Ceballos 🇵🇷 (@kortizceballos) December 1, 2020

In demolishing Arecibo, NSF said it would try to save as many of the surrounding structures and facilities as possible while maintaining the location as a place of education and learning. It’s not clear how this latest development will affect those plans.

As you might imagine, scientists and Puerto Ricans have taken to Twitter to mourn Arecibo’s end. For the better part of almost six decades, the observatory stood as a beacon of human knowledge, assisting astronomers searching for extraterrestrial life and furthering our understanding of the cosmos. With appearances in movies like GoldenEye, the facility also made its way into the popular imagination. At the very least, everyone knows what Arecibo looks like, even if they’ve never been to Puerto Rico.