The world’s largest radio telescope, with a dish that could fit 30 football fields, is currently being assembled in the mountains of Guizhou province.
Once complete, the single-aperture spherical telescope, called FAST, will surpass the Arecibo Observatory telescope in Puerto Rico to become the biggest in the world. FAST’s reflector measures 500 meters in diameter and is made up of 4,450 triangular-shaped panels with sides 11 meters long. Technicians claim that it’ll be 10 times more agile than Germany’s Effelsberg 100-m Radio Telescope.
The larger dish will allow the telescope to pick up weaker signals. FAST is tucked away in a bowl-like valley surrounded by hills, and with no towns or cities within a five-kilometer radius, has optimal “radio silence”, according to Xinhua. So much so that experts believe the telescope may be able to detect signs of alien life.
“Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages. It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe,” said Wu Xiangping, director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society.
The FAST project was introduced in 2007 and construction began in 2011. Work on the telescope’s reflector just took off yesterday afternoon and it is expected to be finished by next year.
By Maggie Wong