The U.S. National Science Foundation has announced the closure of a large telescope at the prestigious Arecibo Laboratory in Puerto Rico. This is a blow to scientists around the world looking for planets, asteroids and extraterrestrial life.
The independent, federal-funded company said operating a single-dish radio telescope was too risky – and one of the largest in the world – that it had suffered significant damage recently.
In August a sub-cable broke, tearing a 30-meter hole in the reflective dish and damaging the dome above it.
On November 6, one of the main steel cables of the telescope broke, causing further damage and leading officials warned that the entire structure could collapse.
The 305-meter-wide telescope, featured in the Jodi Foster film Contact and the James Bond film Golden Eye, has been in operation for 57 years.
Completed in 1963, the Arecibo telescope was the world’s largest single-hole radio telescope until 2016, when China launched the 500-meter-wide spherical telescope.
Scientists around the world have used it to track asteroids on their way to Earth, and it is part of the Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CHET) program to find out if there is intelligent life beyond our planet.