World’s largest radio telescope begins operations [S&T]
- The world’s largest radio telescope began searching for signals from stars and galaxies and, perhaps, extraterrestrial life in a project demonstrating China’s rising ambitions in space and its pursuit of international scientific prestige.
- Beijing launched second space station earlier this month.
- Measuring 500-meters in diameter, radio telescope is in southern Guizhou Province.
- It surpassed the 300-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars that won a Nobel Prize.
- FAST would search for gravitational waves, detect radio emissions from stars and galaxies and listen for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life.
- In theory, if there is civilisation in outer space, the radio signal it sends will be similar to the signal we can 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 five-km radius, resulting in the relocation of more than 8,000 people from their homes in eight villages to make way for the facility.
- China has also completed the construction of tourist facilities such as an observation deck on a nearby mountain. Such facilities can be a draw for visitors — one in Puerto Rico draws about 90,000 visitors and 200 scientists each year.