A 900-ton telescope in Puerto Rico that has aided in making astronomical discoveries for over 50 years collapsed on Tuesday.
The telescope’s receiver fell 400 feet onto the reflector dish below. The incident happened just a few months after an auxiliary cable broke in August and made a 100-foot gash in the reflector dish. A main cable subsequently broke last month.
The collapse shocked scientists who depended on the telescope, which was until recently the largest radio telescope in the world, NBC News reports.
Carmen Pantoja, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, used the telescope to earn her doctorate.
“It’s a huge loss. … It was a chapter of my life,” Pantoja said.
The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced earlier in November that it would be closing down the telescope due to the extensive damage, a move scientists around the world protested.
Currently, the NSF says there are plans to reopen the visitors center and to eventually restore operations at the observatory’s existing assets.
The telescope was built in the 1960s to develop anti-ballistic missile defenses, and had endured hurricanes and earthquakes during its nearly 57 years. At the time of its collapse, about 250 scientists worldwide were using the telescope, according to NBC News.
Abel Méndez, a physics professor at the University of Puerto Rico, was one of those scientists. He last used the telescope in August, not long before one of the auxiliary cables snapped.
“The world without the observatory loses, but Puerto Rico loses even more," Méndez said.