We told earlier that China was building FAST – the world’s largest radio telescope. Now it is complete. The final reflectors of the total of 4,450 reflectors were installed in last weekend. Though the telescope has been completed, it is yet to go fully operational. It will take another 2 years or 3 for that to happen.
With this telescope, China will become one of the leading countries in the world to hunt for alien life. Yes, that is the primary objective of the telescope. However, FAST or Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope will also help China to explore universe as a whole.
The 1650-foot dish of the radio telescope is so big that it can accommodate nearly 3 football fields. It has 4,450 triangular reflectors fitted on it. The total cost of building the telescope is USD 180 million. Located in Guizhou – a southeastern province in China, the telescope’s construction began back in 2011.
A bit of background on location of FAST
According to Nan Rendong – chief scientist of FAST project – FAST, which is world’s largest radio telescope of single aperture is located in an area which is extremely radio-quiet. This is very beneficial from astronomy point of view. The telescope, according to Rendong, will revolutionize natural sciences areas.
Now FAST is located in Guizhou, which is at a distance of 1200 miles from the city of Beijing. The site is definitely radio-quiet but it wasn’t really that quiet. The site where the telescope sits was the home for 65 villagers. They have been uprooted from their home and relocated to a different place. According to state media Xinhua, residents of nearby villages are actually jealous of those 65 people because they have been relocated to a better location with better living conditions. According to Xinhua, the nearby villagers have asked those 65 people to ‘thank the aliens’.
It is not that only 65 people have been moved. Another 9,110 people who live in the nearby locations within 3-mile radius of Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope will also be relocated. According to reports, relocation will be completed by September end this year. As a compensation, Chinese government will pay USD 1,837 to each person. It is not very clear whether the Chinese government is relocating these people for their safety or to simply protect the integrity of the readings made by Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope.
Potential of FAST
According to director of Radio Astronomy Technology Laboratory of National Astronomical Observatories, Peng Bo, FAST can look farther out into deep space and at the darker planets than any other equipment currently operational in the world.
Of course that is true. The disc of FAST is way bigger than Arecibo Observatory’s radio telescope which has a disc of 1000 feet. The Arecibo Observatory telescope is located in Puerto Rico and it used to be world’s largest radio telescope before FAST.
Near Bonn in Germany is another 100-meter telescope which is steerable. According to Xinhua, FAST will be 10x sensitive compared to that steerable telescope. Not only will FAST look for alien life out in deep space, it will also detect gravity waves of low-frequency. By doing so, FAST will allow scientists to learn a lot about early days of universe.