China's New Scientific Endeavor Is The World's Largest Radio Telescope

By Jiran , Sep 26, 2016 03:00 AM EDT

China has recently finished building the world's largest radio telescope. It was unveiled at a ceremony on Sunday. It's part of the country's scientific endeavors. The telescope has already received its first space signals.

China's Massive FAST

China's radio telescope is called the Five Hundred Metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). Its dish has a diameter of 500m. It is now the largest in the world. The previous record holder, the Aricebo Observatory in Puerto Rico, has a 305-meter diameter. The dish is made up of 4,450 triangular panels, according to The New York Times. It has a collecting area of 2.1 million square feet.

It was constructed for five years in Guizhou Province, China. It is specifically located in a vast natural crater. FAST is a project of the National Astronomical Observatories of China. The said telescope actually cost $180m. FAST is able to collect radio waves emitted by objects in space, according to BBC.

FAST's Project Manager Prof. Peng Bo revealed that it was able to detect radio waves from three pulsars. The extremely dense stars are rapidly rotating. He also disclosed that they are a key scientific target. Its massive size is an advantage. The telescope can pick up signals even from the farthest parts of the universe.

China's President Xi Jinping has also expressed his excitement for FAST. He said that it will help his country to make major advance and breakthroughs at the frontier of science. He went as far to call it China's "eye in the sky".

FAST's Bright Future

Prof Peng admitted that FAST still has to undergo three years of calibration, testing and tuning. Until then, the telescope won't be fully functional. However, he shared that they could still carry out some science in its testing phase. In fact, they would be working with international astronomers.

FAST's Chief Scientist Prof Nan Rendong seems to confirm it. He said that the said collaboration is a vital part of the project. He added that they will accept proposals from foreign scientists. They will also let them be in the allocation committee.

FAST does indeed offer a very bright future for astronomers.

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