A massive radio telescope made famous as the backdrop for a pivotal scene infilm “GoldenEye” and other Hollywood hits was found suddenly out of commission after cables mysteriously snapped and smashed into the facility’s main dish.
The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is home to one of the world’s largest radio telescopes, acting as a giant ear to the universe. Located in the middle of a forest, the telescope listens for radio signals from other galaxies and has contributed to numerous breakthroughs in astronomy.
Aside from tracking asteroids that could endanger the planet, the telescope played a major role in the “SETI” program — the search for intelligent life. It was notably used by astronomer Carl Sagan to send an interstellar message.
Earlier this week, the facility was forced to close down after a cable supporting a metal platform above the telescope fell, tearing a 100-foot gash in its giant reflector dish.
“The cable didn’t really break in the sense of a cable kind of snapping, but it just sort of slipped from its socket, which is you know, an even weirder condition,” Arecibo Observatory Director Francisco Cordova told CBS News’ Jeff Glor.
Technicians working around the clock to get the telescope back online say they are still making assessments to find what exactly happened, storing the machine’s “structure of capabilities,” and making sure it could not lead to more problems in the future.
“So at this point, we’re not, you know, we don’t really have a bigger timeline of when that is going to happen,” Cordova said.
The telescope, a pivotal part of the ongoing search to find other planets capable of sustaining life, has survived terrestrial hazards like hurricanes, tropical storms and. Now, the scientific community hopes it can recover from the mysterious damage.
“We’ll find a way to repair this particular issue and continue to move forward,” Cordova said. “We’ve overcome a lot in our 50-year history, from Hurricane Maria to very recent rash of earthquakes to now this. So we’re a pretty resilient bunch down here and we’re going to figure out a way to continue to move forward, doing exciting science for the world.”
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