Famous alien-hunting telescope collapsed in December. Now, investigators might know why.

An ongoing investigation of the December collapse of the iconic radio telescope at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico offers early evidence that a manufacturing issue may have contributed to the failure.

The telescope’s massive science platform, which weighed in at 900 tons, was suspended above the vast radio dish by three dozen supporting cables. But in August 2020, one of those cables slipped out of its socket; before the failure could be repaired, a second cable snapped outright in November. The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), which owns the site, determined that the platform was too unstable to safely repair and decided to decommission the instrument. Before that could happen, the telescope collapsed on its own on Dec. 1.

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