Aspiring astronomers looking for a well-paid gig, we have some bad news.
Despite media reports that China is desperately looking for a qualified foreigner to run its world’s largest radio telescope, completed in the hilly hinterlands of Guizhou province last year, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has denied that there is any such job search ongoing.
The South China Morning Post spoke last week with Wang Tinggui, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei involved with the high-profile FAST (Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope) project, who told the paper that since there was no qualified Chinese candidate for the job of running the $1.2 billion telescope, tasked with unraveling the mysteries of the origin of the universe and discovering extraterrestrial life, the CAS was trying to find a suitable laowai for the job.
Despite offering a competitive salary of more than $1.2 million and numerous subsidies, along with the opportunity to win a Nobel Prize, the job search has so far been unsuccessful, according to the report, owing to the high requirements and considerable challenges of the position — including living in a remote, mountainous region of Guizhou while working long and irregular hours in a foreign environment.
But the CAS said on its Weibo account on Saturday that it hasn’t found a foreigner for the job because it was never looking in the first place, claiming that the position of FAST chief scientist was filled back in July 2016 when the facility was completed.
However, the CAS did not go on to identify this chief scientist.
The FAST began operations last September with a 500-meter-wide dish, roughly the size of 30 football fields, which 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. Still, officials have cautioned not to expect anything great from the FAST for at least a few years, while scientists run tests and fix bugs associated with the complex equipment.
Follow Shanghaiist on WeChat