If the truth really is out there, then China wants to be the one that finds it.
In July, the world’s largest radio telescope was completed in rural Guizhou. It will go into operation later this month, with the goal of enhancing humankind’s understanding of the origin of the universe and finding extraterrestrial life.
It all starts on September 25th, when a new regulation will go into effect, ensuring the safe operation of the 500-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope or FAST. The rule requires radio silence within a 10-kilometer radius of the facility. It also prohibits construction, hunting, logging and land reclamation in the immediate area, threatening a 100,000 yuan fine, Xinhua reports.
Already, the Guizhou government has relocated nearly 10,000 residents living within a 3.1-mile radius of the telescope. The relocation plan became controversial because of its human cost, as well as the meager compensation offered to residents — 12,000 yuan each, which is barely half the annual salary in China.
The FAST project was introduced in 2007 and construction began in 2011. By July 2015, it was time to install the reflective panels. In total, the whole thing cost 1.2 billion yuan. Here’s the transition from mountainous wilderness to giant space telescope:
The 500-meter-wide dish is roughly the size of 30 football fields and dwarfs that of 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, state media has boasted that FAST can reach 11 billion light-years into space and could double the number of pulsars known to humans within a year of operation.