With a diameter of 500 meters and roughly the area of 30 football fields, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope — acronymed FAST and nicknamed the Sky Eye — is now the biggest radio telescope in the world, suprassing the 305-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
The larger the dish, the better the telescope can pick up weak signals from galaxies far, far away. Peng Bo, the vice-manager of the FAST project boasted to CCTV that FAST can reach 11 billion lightyears into space, and could double the number of pulsars known to humans within a year of operation.
FAST is equipped with a 19-beam receiver designed and built in Australia, which enables it to search a larger proportion of the sky for faint and hidden galaxies.
The deputy head of the National Astronomical Observation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is quoted by Xinhua as saying that “The project has the potential to search for more strange objects to better understand the origin of the universe and boost the global hunt for extraterrestrial life.”
The FAST project was introduced in 2007 and construction began in 2011. When we last mentioned the FAST project in July 2015, they were about to install the reflective panels.
In order to create an environment of low radio interference for optimal operation, the Guizhou government has decided to relocate residents within a 3.1-mile radius of the telescope, amounting to about 9,110 people. The relocation plan is controversial for its human cost, as well as the compensation offered to residents — 12,000 yuan each, which is barely half the annual salary in China.
Scientists will start debugging and running trials on the telescope soon. Operation is expected to begin in September.
By Victor Fung
[Images via Xinhua]