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China’s Assembling The World’s Largest Radio Telescope

The panels making up the largest radio telescope the world has ever seen, known as FAST & made by China, is currently being pieced together.

FAST telescope

An artist’s impression of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). Photo credits: Arxiv.

China is known to experimenting in a wide variety of fields, setting up ambitious projects. One such endeavour involves the construction of the biggest radio telescope in the world which started off in 2011. The panels that are to make up the telescope are now being assembled.

The telescope is known as the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). Its name is indicative of its huge size: its dish is 500 metres in diameter. The next largest radio telescope makes 305 metres in diameter and is situated in Puerto Rico, in the Arecibo Observatory.

It is to consist of 4,450 reflector panels that are in the shape of 11-metre equilateral triangles. The process of putting these together has just begun.

FAST will be installed in a valley in the Karst depression in Guizhou province where it will be away from the public – it is within a 5-kilometre area from people. This is so because a telescope of this size is extremely sensitive and has to be away from any interference whatsoever. The chosen spot is also the ideal because of the ease to draw rainwater underground to protect the reflector from environmental damage.

“Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages,” said the director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society, Wu Xiangping, in a statement.

“It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe.”

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