The famous Arecibo radio telescope, on the American island of Puerto Rico, collapsed Tuesday, December 1.
In 57 years of service, the giant was used by astronomers around the world.
It had, among other things, made it possible to discover the first planets in orbit around a star other than the Sun.
Arecibo was also one of the main radars for observing asteroids approaching Earth as part of the NASA planetary defense program.
The US space agency has access to at least one other radar, but less powerful.
Arecibo was so mythical that it was the location of the film "Contact", in which an astronomer played by Jodie Foster used the observatory in her quest for alien signals.
An action scene from the James Bond film "GoldenEye" took place above the telescope.
Chile: the construction of the largest telescope in the world is launched
A telescope already damaged
Two cables supporting the 900 t telescope instruments on a platform above the 305 m diameter parabola had broken on August 10 and November 6, for an unknown cause.
A fall that had pierced the parable.
On December 1, “the platform collapsed in an unplanned manner,” explains Rob Margetta, spokesperson for the American National Science Foundation, which funds the observatory.
"It's an absolute disaster," reacted Professor Abel Méndez, director of the planetary habitability laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.
Moved the scientist said his sadness for "Many students were trained in astronomy in the observatory, it is what gives them the inspiration to make a career in science or in astronomy, like me".