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The Tragedy of a Ruined Telescope

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One of the most powerful telescopes in the world is on the brink of collapse.

Arecibo, a giant radio observatory nestled in the lush mountains of Puerto Rico, did some of the dreamiest work in astronomy. But it was forced to stop operations this year after suffering unprecedented damage, and officials now believe that it is beyond repair. Instead of trying to fix it, they’re going to tear it down.

The trouble began in August. A metal support cable weighing thousands of pounds slipped out of its socket and plummeted into the cavernous, 1,000-foot-wide radio dish in the middle of the night. The cable, installed in the 1990s, was considered fairly new for an observatory that began operations in 1963, and the incident confounded Arecibo’s stewards. The cable “definitely should not have failed in the way it did,” Ashley Zauderer, the Arecibo program director at the National Science Foundation,which owns the telescope, said during a press conference today.

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The Arecibo Observatory in November 2020, with damage visibleRicardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/11/arecibo-catastrophic-collapse/617148/

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