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Arecibo Observatory's 305-meter telescope in November of 2020. Photo: University of Central Florida

The famous 350-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will not be fixed after multiple accidents left the telescope unstable and on the brink of collapse, according to the National Science Foundation.

Why it matters: Arecibo has contributed to myriad space science advancements for decades. The telescope provided data that helped scientists find the first planet confirmed outside of our solar system, and it has been key to the hunt for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

Context: The telescope's most recent problems began in August when a large cable unexpectedly snapped. As engineers and operators were working to find a way to secure the unstable telescope, another cable detached on November 6.

  • According to the NSF, the repairs required to stabilize the telescope are too dangerous for workers to execute, forcing the foundation to decommission the telescope.
  • "This decision is intended to preserve life and safety of people, and prevent the loss of the entire Arecibo Observatory, including the visitor Education Center in the event of an unexpected and uncontrolled collapse," the NSF's Sean Jones said during a press conference Thursday.
  • "The decommissioning is only intended to affect the 305-meter telescope, not the rest of the observatory," Jones added.

What's next: The NSF is now developing a plan for how to demolish the telescope before it collapses.

  • Areas that would be in danger due to an unexpected collapse have been evacuated and the NSF is working to find a way to keep other scientific instruments at the observatory safe during the decommissioning process.

Go deeper

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.

Fauci: Children "very likely" to get COVID vaccine at start of 2022

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Children under age 12 will "very likely" be able to get vaccinated for coronavirus at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Why it matters: Children generally aren't at risk of serious coronavirus infections, but vaccinating them will be key to protecting the adults around them and, eventually, reaching herd immunity, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.

Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana in 2024

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Lawmakers in Virginia on Saturday approved compromise legislation that would legalize marijuana in 2024, putting the state a step closer to becoming the first in the South to end prohibition on the drug, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Why it matters: The legislation will make Virginia the 16th state to legalize marijuana, per Politico. It would add to a slate of laws that have seen Virginia move in a more progressive direction during the tenure of Gov. Ralph Northam.