Dec. 1, 2020, 10:27 AM -04 / Updated Dec. 1, 2020, 1:22 PM -04 / Source: Associated PressBy Nicole Acevedo and The Associated Press
The Arecibo Observatory, a huge and previously damaged radio telescope in Puerto Rico that played a key role in astronomical discoveries for more than half a century, completely collapsed on Tuesday.
The telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform fell onto the reflector dish more than 400 feet below.
Puerto Rican meteorologist Ada Monzón broke into tears on local TV as she delivered the devastating news to other heartbroken Puerto Ricans across the U.S. territory.
“I have to inform you, with my heart in hand, that the Arecibo Observatory collapsed,” she said in Spanish. “We made every attempt to save it.”
The U.S. National Science Foundation had earlier announced that the Arecibo Observatory would be closed. An auxiliary cable snapped in August, causing a 100-foot gash on the 1,000-foot-wide (305-meter-wide) reflector dish and damaged the receiver platform that hung above it. Then a main cable broke in early November.
No injuries were reported as a result of the Arecibo Observatory collapse, according the NSF.
“NSF is saddened by this development. As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico,” the organization tweeted.
The collapse stunned many scientists who had relied on what was until recently the largest radio telescope in the world.
Dr. Jonathan Friedman, a scientist who worked in the Arecibo Observatory for half his life, told WAPA-TV in Puerto Rico that the collapse felt like ‘an avalanche.”
“At first, I thought it was one of the earthquakes that we felt in January. It sounded like a train or an avalanche. The rumble lasted a few seconds,” said Friedman in Spanish.
“It’s a huge loss,” said Carmen Pantoja, an astronomer and professor at the University of Puerto Rico who used the telescope for her doctorate. “It was a chapter of my life.”
Meteorologist Deborah Martorell told Puerto Rican national newspaper El Nuevo Día she visited the Arecibo Observatory Monday not knowing it would be her last time.