Space

Largest radio telescope on Earth switched on in China

A bird's eye view of FAST
A bird's eye view of FAST
View 2 Images
A bird's eye view of FAST
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A bird's eye view of FAST
FAST seen edge-on
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FAST seen edge-on

China is one step closer to leading the search for alien radio signals. On Sunday the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced that the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) has begun operations. FAST takes over the title of world's largest radio telescope from the 305-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

"Once completed, FAST will lead the world for at least 10 to 20 years," said Yan Jun, director general of the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC).

FAST will be able to do much more than just listen for signals from potential extra-terrestrial intelligence. The radio telescope will also help to study a number of aspects of the universe, like pulsars, the makeup of the Milky Way and more.

CAS says that following the completion of the telescope's construction earlier this year, it has officially been turned on and a testing and debugging phase is underway.

One of its recent trial observations involved receiving electromagnetic waves from a pulsar 1,351 light years away.

While FAST has been conceived, built and operated by China, CAS says the telescope will be open to the international science community.

FAST seen edge-on
FAST seen edge-on

"As soon as the telescope works normally, the Time Allocation Committee (TAC) will distribute observation time according to the scientific value of the proposals. Proposals from foreign scientists will be accepted as well. There will also be foreigners on the TAC," said Nan Rendong, FAST's general engineer and chief scientist.

FAST has been in the works since 1994, but the site in Guizhou Province was not chosen until 2007 and construction began in 2011. Over 8,000 local people are being moved and re-settled from the vicinity of the telescope, which must be free of radio interference for a 5-kilometer radius. That will also mean that all visitors must turn off their phones.

Sources: Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xinhua

3 comments
DoodnauthHarrykissoon
Details not provided, but may be man's first comprehensive study of nonparticle physics.
AladdinConnolly
Time to get out the skateboard.
voluntaryist
Imagine the 'scope that could be built with the money spent on one new bomber or fighter jet? Why is there no money for that? Must the US Empire continue to spend 10 times more than the sum total of all other countries combined for offense? Yes, it's for worldwide dominance. And now, with social unrest following from slow economic collapse (in depression since '08), we may soon see that "dominance" on main street. History repeats when ignored.
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