Space

Construction complete on the world's largest radio telescope in China

Construction complete on the w...
UAV image of China's FAST radio telescope
UAV image of China's FAST radio telescope
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UAV image of China's FAST radio telescope
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UAV image of China's FAST radio telescope

With the installation of a final triangular panelon July 3, 2016, construction has been completed on the gargantuanFive-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) inDawodang, Kedu Town, Guizhou Province, China. Upon commencingoperations in late September, the 1.5 billion yuan (US$ 180 million)FAST telescope will become the most powerful single-dish radiodetector in the world.

The concept for the vast telescope was firstproposed in 1994, but the logistical nightmare of finding anappropriate site for the enormous dish prevented the Chinesegovernment from giving a final go-ahead on the ambitious projectuntil relatively recently, in 2007.

Dawodang, Kedu Town was eventually selected as thesite of the radio telescope in no small part thanks to the presenceof the surrounding mountain formation, which will act to sheildFAST's delicate instrumentation from local radio disturbances.

Less than 6 years after the official start of theconstruction project, the last of 4,450 panels has been installedatop an impressive cable-net frame. When manipulated by actuatorslocated at the base of the structure, the swarm of panels combine toform a single parabolic radio reflecting dish with a surface area theequivalent of 30 soccer fields.

"FAST will enable Chineseastronomers to jump-start many scientific goals, such as surveyingthe neutral hydrogen in the Milky Way, detecting faint pulsars, andlistening to possible signals from other civilizations," said NANRendong, general engineer and chief scientist for the FAST project."It's time for China to have its ownbig telescope."

In the coming months, the team responsible for theoperation of FAST will be engaged in testing the telescope's manydelicate systems to ensure that it is ready for its first set ofobservations, which are set to begin sometime in September this year.

Astronomers across the globe are eagerlyanticipating the next generation of powerful terrestrial and orbitalobservation platforms. Alongside the FAST telescope, upcoming assetssuch as the European Extremely Large Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and the addition of the European Virgo laser interferometer to the LIGO gravitational wave hunters willallow astronomers to gain a deeper understanding of the complexnature of our Universe.

Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences

3 comments
Milton
Also the worlds largest skate bowl. (just joking kids)
ZachEM
Maybe now it can finally be over with, all these crackpots claiming to see little gray or green men....! With an array so large it's unquestionable as to how anything could escape it, so the next time someone says they saw a little green man, or gray, you can ask well how did they get here buy Greyhound Bus....? LoL...! I can not believe the size of this radio telescope , But who other than the Chinese could do something on so grand a scale.. It makes you wonder how the US being such a great nation could have fallen so far behind.. China leads the world in public transportation with all it's rail lines crisscrossing the entire country, now also a maglev system... They are so far ahead of the US, that I fear the day should if it ever to come to them rattling their sabers declaring war on us..... So far they remain peaceful with us, let it continue to be so....
RMinNM
From the picture above, it doesn't look like the receiver cabin, which is suspended on cables from the six towers, is in place. (The 'bump' in the very middle is not what I mean) If you look closely you can trace the cables which come together at what looks like a roughly triangular frame about halfway between the center of the dish and the top edge in this photo. It's not ready to do science yet, but it's a cool feat of engineering. You can read he journal paper describing FAST from http://arxiv.org/abs/1105.3794v2 and selecting Download PDF from the top right of the page.