China has finally completed the king of single-aperture telescopes in the form of its Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). The huge ear to the universe is 64 percent larger than the Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, which was the largest of its kind for the last 53 years.
Proposed in 1994 and approved by the National Development and Reform Commission(NDRC) in July 2007, construction of FAST began in March 2011. It is located in a rural area of Guizhou province. A 65-person village was relocated from the valley to make room for the telescope and an additional 9,110 people living within a 5 km radius of the telescope were relocated to a neighbouring country to create a radio-quiet area.
Additionally, these families were also paid 10,000 yuan (roughly $1,500) in compensation, which approximates to an average year’s salary in the area.
FAST will enable Chinese astronomers to jump-start many scientific goals, such as surveying the neutral hydrogen in the Milky Way, detecting faint pulsars, and listening to possible signals from other civilizations,
said NAN Rendong, general engineer and chief scientist for the FAST project.
It’s time for China to have its own big telescope.
FAST has a physical diameter of 500 meters. Its dish comprises of 4,500 triangular panels, which when combined with an active adjustable reflector, will enable scientists to observe a larger area of space in greater fidelity than any telescope before it.
Although the telescopes physical diameter is 500 meters, its effective area comes in at about 300 meters in diameter. This dish can be pointed in any direction at ±40° from the zenith, with 10 times the sensitivity of Arecibo. It is littered with 9 receivers with a working frequency range of 70 MHz to 3.0 GHz.
The device will start its duty of finding clues of alien life later this fall. Its primary jobs being surveying neutral hydrogen in the milky way and other galaxies, detecting pulsars and gravitational waves and looking for signs of extra-terrestrial life.