The Arecibo Observatory — a gargantuan telescope in Puerto Rico famous for scouring the cosmos for asteroids and alien life — went quiet this week, following a devastating accident that left the telescope’s reflector dish in pieces.
On Monday (Aug. 10) at approximately 2:45 a.m. local time, a metal cable at the facility snapped, slashing through the radar dish and tearing open a 100-foot-long (30 meters) hole, according to a statement from the University of Central Florida, which operates the National Science Foundation-owned facility. The snapped cable also smashed through several other cables and platforms that support the dish, causing debris to rain down on the ground below and making it harder for technicians to access the site.
“We have a team of experts assessing the situation,” Francisco Cordova, the director of the observatory, said in the statement. “Our 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.”