Arecibo Telescope Collapses After Weeks Of Uncertainty

For England, James?

The Arecibo Observatory’s radio telescope finally crumbled on December 1, 2020, and the event was captured on camera.

The telescope’s fall actually began back in August, when Tropical Storm Isais struck the area, leading to a snapped support cable. The cable was one of many that helped support the receiver platform high above the telescope’s 1,000-foot-diameter dish.

In November, a second cable snapped, leading the National Science Foundation to determine that the telescope was no longer salvageable. At that point, they intended to dismantle the whole thing, despite petitions to save it.

However, last week, fate beat them to the punch — the remaining cables broke, sending the 900-ton platform crashing down onto the reflector dish and leaving the Arecibo Telescope completely destroyed.

The Arecibo Observatory, located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, has a long and storied history, both here in the real world and in paranormal fiction like The X-Files and Contact. Built in 1963, the observatory is perhaps most prominently known, at least around these parts, for its role in the attempted communication with intelligent extraterrestrial life.

In 1974, SETI researchers used the telescope to send a message toward Messier 13, with the hope that intelligent extraterrestrials would someday receive the message and, possibly, reply back. We’ve yet to hear from them, but it was a fascinating exercise nonetheless!

While the telescope is clearly out of commission, both LIDAR facilities and the visitor center were spared. As of 2022, the National Science Foundation has stated that they have no plans to rebuild the telescope, and will instead create an “educational center” in its place.

While this may be sad news, particularly given the telescope’s place in history and pop culture, SETI still has plenty to work with, including the Allen Telescope Array, as well as the Breakthrough Listen project, announced back in 2015 with backing by Stephen Hawking. In that project’s announcement, Hawking said, “In an infinite Universe, there must be other life. There is no bigger question. It is time to commit to finding the answer.”

The hunt continues, with or without hurricanes!

Personally, I’ll always remember the Arecibo Telescope not for its use in the hunt for ETs or other paranormal matters, but for its starring role in the final climactic battle of GoldenEye. Don’t forget — it fell back then, too!


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.

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