FAST: World’s biggest radio telescope near completion in China

World Today

The 500 meter Aperture Spherical TelescopeA long exposure photo of the 500 meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in Pingtang County in southwestern China’s Guizhou Province Monday, June 27, 2016. (Liu Xu/Xinhua via AP)

Construction on the world’s biggest radio telescope is underway in Guizhou Province in southwest China. Due for completion in September, the 500-meter Single Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope is known as FAST for short. In a few days’ time, its last reflector panel will be installed. When it’s fully functional, the telescope should be able to detect radio signals from the deep universe – more than 1,000 light years away.

CCTV’s Liu Yang reported from Guizhou province.

Experts say this gigantic radio telescope will fast forward China’s astronomical level by at least ten years. When completed, it will be the world’s biggest single-aperture spherical radio telescope, and the most sensitive radio telescope in human history. 

The telescope has a 1.6 kilometer circumference. It consists of nearly 4,500 panels and has been built in a natural karst depression to shield it from electromagnetic disturbances.

In just few months, it will require “radio silence” within five kilometers. All residents have to move away, and no cell phone signals are allowed. 

PHOTOS: FAST under construction

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The project began in 2011 and has cost nearly 1.2 billion yuan – about $185 million USD. 

Experts say this gigantic telescope – the world’s largest – could view the universe by collecting radio frequency radiation, and will be capable of detecting very weak signals from space. It could also make a contribution to areas such as the large-scale physics of the universe and to the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Yue Youling, an associate researcher for the National Astronomical Observatories, is getting ready to discover the unknown. His first priority is to debug the radio telescope when it’s completed, and then to search for pulsars in the universe. 

“We have found more than 2,500 pulsars. We hope we can find at least double that number with this gigantic radio telescope,” said Yue. “Understanding the fundamental physics of pulsars will help us understand the “Big Bang.” Now we only know what happened after the Big Bang, everything before that relies on our calculation.”

In just few days, the last reflector panel will be installed, which means this mega construction will soon be completed. The scientists say there will still a lot of debugging to do. After all, no one has ever used a telescope this big before.