The Second-Largest Radio Telescope Is No More

This story will sting for fans of science, outer space, and James Bond.

The famous Arcebio radio telescope in Puerto Rico, until recently the largest radio telescope in the world, has unceremoniously met its end.

The telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform, which was suspended by cables connected to three towers, fell onto the 1,000-foot antenna dish on Tuesday morning.

The unexpected collapse came after the telescope suffered damage on November 19th, when an auxiliary cable slipped out of its socket and left a 100-foot gash in the dish below.

Why It Matters

The Arecibo radio telescope was built in the early 1960s and played an integral role in many scientific discoveries:

  • In 1967, the telescope was used to discover that the planet Mercury rotates in 59 days, not the 88 days astronomers had once believed.
  • The observatory provided the first solid evidence for a type of object known as a neutron star (the collapsed core of a so-called massive supergiant star).
  • It was also used to identify the first example of a binary pulsar (two magnetized neutron stars orbiting around a common center of mass), which earned its discoverers the Nobel Prize in Physics.

If none of that interests you, you might recognize the telescope from the Bond flick GoldenEye.