By Tim Binnall
Much to the profound dismay of astronomers and space enthusiasts around the world, the famed alien-hunting Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico has been decommissioned due to damage sustained at the site over the last few months. The unfortunate announcement was made today by the National Science Foundation (NSF) which oversees the 57-year-old observatory. The decision, they explained, follows "a review of engineering assessments that found damage to the Arecibo Observatory cannot be stabilized without risk to construction workers and staff at the facility."
The apparent fatal blow to the telescope was the snapping of a support cable earlier this month which followed a similar incident back in August. With those two critical pieces of infrastructure removed, the NSF said, "the telescope structure is in danger of a catastrophic failure and its cables may no longer be capable of carrying the loads they were designed to support." And, alas, attempts to enlist construction workers to fix the damage would expose them to "potentially life-threatening danger."
The NSF hopes to safely decommission the 100-foot diameter radio telescope, but warns that their careful work could be thwarted due to the unstable nature of the site and it very well may collapse on its own in the not-too-distant future. That said, should it hold up while the necessary plans can be put into place, the legendary astronomical instrument will, sadly, be destroyed so as to prevent such a dangerous scenario from unfolding.
While the telescope itself has been shuttered for good, the NSF stressed that, once the decommissioning process is complete, they hope to restore operations at other scientific outposts associated with the Arecibo facility which were not impacted by the damage to the dish. The source of a vast array of scientific insights over the course of its nearly six decades of operation, the Arecibo telescope may be most famous for being featured in the hit films Contact and GoldenEye.