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.