The 500-metre-wide Aperture Spherical
Telescope will be used to search for
extraterrestrial life.
China has completed construction of the
world’s largest radio telescope, based in
the southwestern province of Guizhou.
Work on the five-hundred-metre Aperture
Spherical Radio Telescope (or FAST)
began in 2011, although initial planning
for the project started as early as 1994.
The final reflector panel – of 4,450 – was
put into place yesterday, although the
telescope itself won’t become operational
until September.
When activated, the 1.2 billion yuan
telescope will help the global search for
extraterrestrial life. According to Xinhua ,
the first handful of years will involve
adjustments, debugging and early-stage
research by Chinese scientists. After this,
the telescope with be available to
scientists worldwide, to detect pulsars,
low frequency gravitational waves and
amino acids – that would be used to
pinpoint life on other planets.
According to The Guardian , a scientist on
the project claimed that if the bowl-
shaped telescope was to be filled with
wine, each of China’s 7bn inhabitants
could pour around five bottles into it.
Regardless of its ability to hold alcohol,
the 500-metre-diameter FAST makes the
world’s second-largest radio telescope,
Puerto Rico’s 300-metre-diameter
Arecibo Observatory, look comparatively
diminutive.
“As the world’s largest single aperture
telescope located at an extremely radio-
quiet site, its scientific impact on
astronomy will be extraordinary, and it
will certainly revolutionise other areas of
the natural sciences,” Nan Rendong, chief
scientist with the FAST Project, told
Xinhua .
FAST will be taken as an achievement for
both China’s space program and the
wider scientific community, but the ‘radio-
quiet site’ does come with a human cost.
Over 9,000 inhabitants living within a
5km radius of FAST are to be relocated,
to ensure radio silence for the telescope.
Each of those residents will receive
12,000 yuan in compensation from the
Chinese government.

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