Seeing is Believing: China Looks for Answers Above with the World’s Largest Telescope
Despite the recent downfall of the Chinese economy, China is still holding firm in its scientific progress. Take for example FAST (Five-hundred meter, Aperture, Spherical, Telescope), a massive engineering and scientific project taken on by China’s military-led space program. Researchers say when completed, FAST will be able to detect radio signals from as far as “tens of billions of light years away”(CNN).
The FAST project began in 2011 at an ideal location in the Guizhou province. FAST’s construction in the middle of the magnificent Karst Mountains in southern China allows for little to no interference from other radio signals. Spanning 30 football fields, FAST will surpass Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, the current largest radio telescope in the World. The center dish will be fixed in a bowl-like setting while a series of motors changes the shape of its reflective surface. China’s supercomputer Sky-Eye1 will back up the operations and allow the telescope to take scans of large bands of the sky.
When operational, the massive dish will enable us to achieve unprecedented precision with which astronomers can survey the Milky Way and other galaxies by detecting faint pulsars. Scientists from China’s Astronomical Society are optimistic about FAST’s ability to explain origins of the universe and find extra-terrestrial life. Chief scientist Nan Rendong of China’s Xinhua news agency draws a parallel between radio telescopes and sensitive hearing in that it picks out distinct noises from all the white noise in the unaversive. Besides FAST, China has a slew of exciting space projects, including a heavy-lift rocket, 60-ton space station, and plans for a robotic lunar mission.
Despite China’s recent economic woes, is poised to remain as engaged as ever on the cutting edge of astronomical science.