Astronomers Mourn the Loss of Powerful Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico

The super powerful Arecibo telescope recently collapsed in Puerto Rico, creating a devastating loss for astronomers.

The recent collapse of the powerful Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico has created a black hole in the working lives of astronomers.

"It's very hard to describe what it's like to lose this telescope," extragalactic astrophysicist Sabrina Stierwalt told Inside Edition Digital. "I wouldn't be a scientist without this telescope."

The massive telescope operated for 57 years until its support cables began to fail and the 900-ton telescope crumbled to the ground. "I started using Arecibo when I first started off trying to get my PhD, so I was 22," Stierwalt said. 

"I was often the only woman in my class, but I had grown up seeing the Arecibo telescope in 'Contact,' seeing Jodie Foster being the main scientist in that movie," she said.

"It can see things that other telescopes can't. In particular, it looks at things like pulsars, which are rapidly rotating dead stars. It looks at galaxies," she explained. 

The Arecibo also provided a defense strategy for incoming asteroids.

"It was also a big component of our understanding of asteroids ... Arecibo helped map them and map their trajectories so we could understand if something was coming in," she said.

Whether or not the telescope will be repaired is not clear. The National Science Foundation has deemed the Arecibo too expensive to repair.

But there is a growing movement to raise funds to fix the important scientific device, Stierwalt said.

"There's a big push for, 'Let's get smart, let's get creative,''' she said. "This telescope is worth fighting for. It's meant so much to so many people and made such important contributions to science."