The footage, captured both from the ground and via drone, shows support cables failing at the top of one of three towers, sending the 900-ton receiver platform plummeting more than 400 feet onto the reflector dish below.
No injuries resulted from the collapse, which, while unplanned, was a known possibility after two cables snapped in August and November. The NSF evacuated staff after the second cable snapped on Nov. 6.
According to the journal Nature, the cable that failed in November, setting up Arecibo’s ultimate demise, dates all the way back to the telescope’s construction in 1963.
In its 57 years of operation, the observatory survived hurricanes, tropical humidity and several earthquakes, and proved invaluable as a tool for scientific discovery and research.
The University of Central Florida, which manages the observatory, is working with the NSF to salvage the facility’s remaining scientific and educational infrastructure. But a full rebuild will be a yearslong process that depends first on Congress making the funds available.
“With regards to replacement, NSF has a very well defined process for funding and constructing large scale infrastructure — including telescopes,” Ralph Gaume, director of NSF’s division of astronomical sciences, said in a press conference Thursday. “It’s a multi-year process that involves congressional appropriations, and the assessment and needs of the scientific community. So it’s very early for us to comment on the replacement.”