China completes the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope
China completes the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope. CCTV America.

Fast is the biggest telescope in the world

Chinese officials have begun testing the world’s largest radio telescope following the completion of the project. The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope dubbed ‘FAST’ for short was successfully installed this Summer and now aims at the stars in search of new horizons.

‘FAST’ will not only see farther and better than most telescopes of its class but it will also displace the long-standing record-holder in Arecibo Observatory as the largest radio operating dish in the whole world. Spanning 500 meters in size, the Chinese giant surpasses the 305-meter Puerto Rican telescope for nearly 200 meters.

The telescope trials represent the latest efforts from China as a country to achieve great things in space exploration. The Asian giant has set space exploration and travel as a top priority development field, with similar projects pending completion in the near future.

How big is China’s Fast?

Chinese scientists conceived the idea of what would eventually be the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope more than twenty years ago. In 1994, early talks and designs of the complex superstructure first arose among national specialists in space observation.

14 of the 22 years that have passed since the conception of the project were spent researching China’s territory and conditions to install the massive telescope, besides assuring that ‘FAST’ would be a feasible endeavor.

Officials finally determined the southwestern region of the country would be the best-suited location for stargazing, settling the radio telescope in the Pingtang County of the Guizhou Province. Construction took over five years, and it was completed in summer 2016.

The large dish consists of 4,450 individual triangular panels fitted together into a net that powers and directs them. Several outlets have noted that the ‘FAST’ telescope measures the same as 30 football fields to provide a perspective of just how big the bowl-like structure is.

China will use the telescope to look for alien life

China’s new eye on the sky will be primarily used to search for extraterrestrial life and find things in space that help us better understand the unsolved mysteries of our world and the universe.

‘FAST’ is a joint venture between two government agencies of the Asian country: the National Astronomical Observation (NAO) subdivision and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with the former being subscribed to the latter.

“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 revolutionize other areas of the natural sciences,” said Nan Redong, chief developer of the ‘FAST’ telescope.

Initially, Chinese scientists will have exclusive access to the ‘FAST’ telescope. After two to three years, the massive radio dish will be open to specialists around the globe to use and observe distant frontiers and, perhaps, alien life forms.

Source: Al Jazeera

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