A broken cable caused severe damage at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, one of the world’s largest single-dish radio telescopes constructed in 1963.. The activity of the telescope was suspended. The cable supported a metal platform. The cable fell onto the dish, creating a large gash. Eight panels in the dome also were damaged. Scientists worldwide use the telescope to detect radio emissions emitted by objects such as stars and galaxies. The cause of the cable failure is not yet known, nor is cost or time required for the fixes. Francisco Cordova, the director of the observatory, told media that the current focus is “assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world.”
This latest incident comes less than three years after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. The storm caused relatively minor damage to the Arecibo Observatory, but repairs have yet to be completed. Now, some important projects active or planned for the obsevatory will be on hold, including scans for potentially dangerous nearby asteroids. Arecibo has played a key role in discoveries ranging from new insights into pulsars to detecting planets outside our solar system. It has figured prominently in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.