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WATCH: Drone Footage Shows Arecibo Observatory Collapse

A camera at Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory captured the telescope's collapse Tuesday. Photo: NSF

The National Science Foundation said work now begins to clean up after the Arecibo Observatory’s 305-meter telescope collapsed in Puerto Rico this week.

A drone surveying damage from a snapped cable earlier this month captured the moment the 900-ton instrument platform fell and crashed into the dish below.

Two snapped cables this year prompted the NSF to decommission the telescope, concluding a safe repair was impossible. Work was underway repairing the first accident which occurred in August when a main cable snapped last month. The stress on the remaining cables likely cause the final collapse Tuesday, although an investigation is still ongoing.

The University of Central Florida manages the facility. “They’re beginning to make preliminary plans moving forward to provide us with a plan for what the cleanup looks like,” said NSF’s Ralph Gaume. Engineers are conducting safety and environmental impact surveys at the site.

It’s unclear how long that process will take and if the NSF will rebuild the massive radio telescope. “[The NSF] is not closing Arecibo Observatory. We have instructed the operator to repair the LIDAR facility and the 12-meter telescope,” said Gaume. “We will be looking for ways to bring other parts of the observatory online as soon as possible.”

The NSF authorized the continuation of repairs to other instruments and to continue paying UCF staff.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »