World’s Largest Telescope Goes Online In China

China begins operating world’s largest radio telescope. The radio telescope is nestled in a natural basin within a stunning landscape of lush green karst formations in southern Guizhou province. The telescope measures 500 meters in diameter. It took five years and $180 million to complete and surpasses that of the 300-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars that led to a Nobel Prize.

FAST would search for gravitational waves, detect radio emissions from stars and galaxies and listen for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life.

“The ultimate goal of FAST is to discover the laws of the development of the universe,” Qian Lei, an associate researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told.
Qia “In theory, if there is any civilisation in outer space, the radio signal will send a similar signal we receive when a pulsar (spinning neutron star) is approaching us.”

Installation of the 4,450-panel structure, nicknamed Tianyan, or the Eye of Heaven, started in 2011 and was completed in July.

The telescope requires a radio silence within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius, resulting in the relocation of more than 8,000 people from their homes in eight villages to make way for the facility, state media said. Reports in August said the villagers would be compensated with cash or new homes from a budget of about $269 million from a poverty relief fund and bank loans.

CCTV reported that during a recent test, the telescope received radio signals from a pulsar that was 1,351 light-years from Earth.

China has also completed the construction of tourist facilities such as an observation deck on a nearby mountain, reports said. Such facilities can be a draw for visitors—the one in Puerto Rico draws about 90,000 visitors and some 200 scientists each year.

By: Drishti Gupta

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