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Fallen giant

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Science  15 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6526, pp. 225-229
DOI: 10.1126/science.371.6526.225

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Summary

The story of the collapse of the Arecibo telescope is now well known. On 10 August 2020, a steel cable supporting a 900-ton instrument platform high above the dish broke at one end and fell, slicing into the dish. A second support cable snapped on 6 November and the National Science Foundation said attempting repairs was too dangerous: Arecibo would be dismantled. On 1 December, fate took control as more cables snapped and the platform came crashing down into the dish. The loss dismayed scientists worldwide. Although 57 years old, Arecibo was still a scientific trailblazer. The public, familiar with the majestic dish from films such as Contact and GoldenEye, also felt the loss. And it was a bitter blow to the people of Puerto Rico, who embraced hosting the technological marvel. Some experts think manufacturing flaws or poor maintenance doomed the suspension cables. Others blame dwindling funding levels. But astronomers are looking to the future. Last month, researchers announced plans for a new $400 million telescope on the same site.

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