The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico was built in 1963 and was the world’s largest single-unit radio telescope until China’s construction of the FAST in 2016. After struggling with structural issues for some time, the dish finally collapsed and the violent destruction was caught on video.
The Observatory was designed over a natural sinkhole and the spherical reflector that consisted of aluminum panels focused incoming radio waves on a moveable antenna that hung suspended about 550 feet above. Those antennae could be moved in any direction and allowed the device to track a celestial object as it moved across the sky.
In August of 2020, one of the cables holding up that central platform snapped and made a hold in the dish. Three months later a second cable broke, leading the National Science Foundation to announce that the entire Observatory was in danger of collapse. Unfortunately, it as determined that there was no safe way that the cables could be repaired and it was set for decommissioning.
On December 1, just days after the announcement of its decommission, the remaining cables snapped and the central platform crashed into the dish below. The video above captures the collapse from multiple angles, including an aerial shot that dramatically shows the violent snapping of the support cables.
The Arecibo Observatory is where scientists first discovered extrasolar planets around the pulsar B1257+12 in 1992, and also produced a detailed radar map of the surfaces of both Venus and Mercury. The Observatory is responsible for determining that Mercury rotated fully once in 59 days while previously it was believed to do so once every 88 days. In addition to being responsible for many other discoveries, its unique shape led it to be featured in multiple Hollywood movies including the James Bond film, GoldenEye.
The collapse of this observatory is widely considered to be a loss of a major historic site by astronomers and scientists worldwide.