On Aug. 10, 2020, the Arecibo Observatory — a massive telescope in Puerto Rico famous for tracking asteroids and advancing the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) — was slashed to pieces after a metal cable above the telescope came loose in the dead of night and crashed through the radar dish below.
One month later, facility officials still don’t know what caused the mysterious midnight malfunction. But the recovery effort is underway, and officials plan to launch a full “forensic investigation” into the disaster as soon as the facility’s safety can be guaranteed, according to a statement from the University of Central Florida (UCF), which helps manage the telescope.
“We know the process is taking a long time and we are eager to begin repairs,” Arecibo Observatory Director Francisco Cordova said in the statement. But before they can remove the broken pieces and get to work, they need to make sure it’s safe to put people on the telescope, Cordova said.
When Arecibo began operating from the bottom of a natural sinkhole in 1963, it became the world’s largest single-dish telescope, stretching 1,000 feet (305 meters) in diameter. You might recognize it from its appearances in the films “Contact” and “Goldeneye”.
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