Operations at the observatory were halted in August when one of its supportive cables slipped loose from its socket, falling and creating a 30-metre hole in its 305-metre-wide reflector dish.
It is a telescope that has captured the imagination of people everywhere, and not just astronomers, but soon the hills near the north coast of Puerto Rico will look somewhat different as damage inflicted from recent cable breaks has proven too catastrophic for the country's beloved and iconic Arecibo Observatory, and repairing it safely is longer an option.
As soon as such a warning was received by the safety experts, the authorities chose to demolish the structure shortly.
Initially contracted to deal with the auxiliary cable problem that broke in August, three engineering firms evaluated the telescope, finally recommending the National Science Foundation (NSF, the independent federal agency to which the observatory belongs) that it be permanently disabled after the evaluations pointed to signs that other of the remaining 11 main cables, now subject to the extra load, could break.
A huge USA space telescope located deep in the jungle of Puerto Rico will be closed after suffering two devastating accidents in recent months, ending 57 years of astronomical discoveries.
The observatory's main reflector dish surface is made of 38,778 perforated aluminum panels, each about 3 by 6 feet (1 by 2 m), supported by a mesh of steel cables.
The facility has been operating for 57 years but now is being planned for a controlled demolition.
"Our question was not if the observatory should be repaired but how", said Ralph Gaume, director of NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences in a statement. "A controlled decommissioning gives us the opportunity to preserve valuable assets that the observatory has". It has lasted for almost 57 years and provided valuable insights for many scientists across the world.
The independent, federally funded agency said it's too risky to keep operating the single dish radio telescope - one of the world's largest - given the significant damage it recently sustained.
NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan expressed regret about what he called "a profound change", and said the observatory will explore ways to assist the scientific community and maintain its strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico. The officials said that this meant a lot to the community of Puerto Rico and they will miss it a lot in future. The Arecibo Observatory Amateur Radio Club, KP4AO, is headquartered at the research facility, and several radio amateurs are employed there. The cables are created to support 900 tons of platform, which will hang 450 feet above the dish.