Huge Puerto Rico radio telescope to close

Danica Coto
·1-min read

The US National Science Foundation says it will close the huge telescope at the renowned Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico in a blow to scientists worldwide who depend on it to search for planets, asteroids and extraterrestrial life.

The independent, federally funded agency said it's too dangerous to keep operating the single dish radio telescope - one of the world's largest - given the significant damage it recently sustained.

An auxiliary cable broke in August and tore a 30-metre hole in the reflector dish and damaged the dome above it.

Then on November 6, one of the telescope's main steel cables snapped, causing further damage and leading officials to warn that the entire structure could collapse.

The telescope boasts a 305-metre-wide dish featured in the Jodie Foster film Contact and the James Bond movie GoldenEye and had been operating for 57 years.

Completed in 1963, the Arecibo telescope was the largest single-aperture radio telescope in the world until 2016 when China inaugurated a 500-metre-wide spherical telescope.

Scientists worldwide have used it to track asteroids on a path to earth and it was part of the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project to learn whether there is intelligent life beyond our planet.