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Huge Puerto Rico radio telescope collapses; many mourning

This satellite image provided by 2020 Maxar Technologies shows the damaged radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2020. The National Science Foundation announced Thursday, Nov. 17 that it will close the huge telescope in a blow to scientists worldwide who depend on it to search for planets, asteroids and extraterrestrial life, saying it’s too dangerous to keep operating the single-dish radio telescope because the entire structure could collapse. (Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies via AP)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A huge radio telescope in Puerto Rico that has long played a key role in astronomical discoveries collapsed on Tuesday, officials said.

The Arecibo Observatory had been shuttered since August after an auxiliary cable snapped and caused a 100-foot gash on the reflector dish. Then a main cable broke in early November, leading the National Science Foundation to declare just weeks later that it planned to close the radio telescope because the damage was too great.

Many scientists and Puerto Ricans mourned the news, with some tearing up during interviews.

It is the second largest radio telescope in the world and had been operating for more than half a century.