China to help build the world’s largest radio telescope

World Today

China’s single-aperture spherical telescope “FAST” is seen under construction in Qiannan of southwest China’s Guizhou Province. (Xinhua/Jin Liwang)

China has joined the international effort to build the Square Kilometer Array, the largest radio telescope in the world.

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The Square Kilometer Array project is the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world, and this new global scientific undertaking will help uncover the mysteries of the universe.

As its name suggests, the telescope will deploy huge fields of antennas across Africa and Australia, with a combined collecting area of roughly one square kilometer (0.4 square mile). That’s about 140 soccer pitches.

The aim is to help astronomers study the sky in monitor with an unprecedented level of detail.

With its headquarters based at the Jodrell Bank site near Manchester in the U.K., the SKA project will build thousands of antennas across two continents, and completely change our understanding of the universe.

“The Square Kilometre Array is the next generation of the radio telescope,” Professor Philip Diamond, director general of SKA, said. He added that it will explore the nature of gravity and will also try to detect signals from extraterrestrial civilizations – if they exist.

The SKA is one of the largest scientific endeavors of the 21st century, and its sheer scale across continents means it has to be an international collaboration.

The project brings together top scientists, engineers, and policy makers from 20 countries, who are now in the process of establishing an intergovernmental organization to help formalize the relationship between the project members.

From the early stages China played an important role in the project, contributing several key technology developments.

The government will also join the negotiations with other member nations to define the level of contribution.

“The Chinese contribution will be cash contribution, together with in-kind contribution. China will deliver its products and technology needed for the project, such as antennas. China has very strong potential in this particular field,” Dr. Qiming Wang, Head of Policy Dev’t, SKA, said.

With preparation well underway, construction of the SKA project is set to start in 2018 with the telescope set to receive its first batch of data two years later.

Story by CCTV.