Massive Arecibo radio telescope suffers more damage from cable incident

The massive Arecibo Observatory, one of the largest single-dish radio telescopes in the world, has suffered considerable damage due to a cable incident, officials report. This isn't the first time the radio telescope has been damaged — it has been repaired multiple times in the past — but this latest incident is fairly substantial, leaving a 100-ft wound that took the telescope offline.

The damage has been reported by the University of Central Florida, which reports that an auxiliary cable supporting the telescope's metal frame snapped at around 2:45 AM on August 10, falling onto the dish and leaving a big hole in its wake. Though the full extent of the damage isn't yet known, officials report that between six and eight panels were broken and the platform itself has bent.

The Arecibo Observatory is located in Puerto Rico and is managed by the university, among others, under a deal with the National Science Foundation. The radio telescope was built in the 1960s and spent decades under management by Cornell University.

In 2017, the observatory suffered minimal damage from Hurricane Maria — it was still being repaired from that incident at the time of the cable's breakage, setting the entire process back. Investigations into this incident are ongoing; there's no given reason for the cable damage at this time. As well, it's unclear how long it will take to repair the telescope and how much it will cost.

Arecibo Observatory Director Francisco Cordova said in a statement:

We have a team of experts assessing the situation. Our focus is assuring the safety of our staff, protecting the facilities and equipment, and restoring the facility to full operations as soon as possible, so it can continue to assist scientists around the world.