Iconic Puerto Rico telescope to be dismantled amid collapse fears

By Paul Rincon
Science editor, BBC News website

Publishedduration21 hours agoimage copyrightUniversity of Central Florida

The iconic Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico is to be dismantled amid safety fears, officials have announced.

A review found that the 305m telescope was at risk of catastrophic collapse, following damage to its support system.

It concluded that the huge structure could not be repaired without posing a potentially deadly risk to construction workers.

The telescope has been a key scientific resource for radio astronomers for 57 years.

Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the US National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds the telescope, said in a statement: "NSF prioritises the safety of workers, Arecibo Observatory's staff and visitors, which makes this decision necessary, although unfortunate."

The telescope consists of a radio dish that's 305 metres (1,000ft) wide with a 900-tonne instrument platform hanging 137m (450ft) above. The platform is suspended by cables connected to three towers.

Engineers had been examining the structure since August when one of its support cables snapped.

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