China Opens World’s Largest Telescope For Foreign Astronomers In 2021

Only weeks after the collapse of one of the biggest and busiest telescopes in the world, China opens its Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) for foreign astronomers to use.

ZEE5 Web Desk

December 18, 2020

China

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Only weeks after the collapse of one of the biggest and busiest telescopes in the world, China releases a statement claiming they are ready to open its doors to Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) for foreign astronomers to use. The move is believed to be in the hope to attract the world’s top scientific talent to come to China.

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Earlier, the world’s second-largest radio telescope was destroyed in a technical accident. The instrument’s 900-tonne receiver platform that laid suspended cut loose and fell 140 metres (450 feet) onto the radio dish below, destroying the half a century-old telescope. Built-in 1963 at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, it was the biggest telescope in the world for decades until the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope claimed its place in 2016. Following the destruction of the telescope, FAST has become the only significant instrument of its kind in the world.

Built between the mountains in southwest China, the world’s largest radio telescope is a symbol of Beijing’s ambitions to become a global centre for scientific research. The installation situated in the Pingtang, Guizhou province, has a 500-metre satellite dish and was built at a cost of whopping 1.1 billion yuan ($175 million). It is believed to be up to three times more sensitive than its counterpart in the US.

The satellite dish is surrounded by a five-kilometre “radio silence” zone where no technological devices like mobile phones or computers are not allowed. The Chinese government had to displace thousands of families from the village during the construction of the giant telescope. FAST which was built in 2011, began its full operations in January this year, trying to radio signals emitted by celestial bodies.

China has been on the rapid rise when it comes to space technology, pouring billions into the sector. The country highly reliant on its military-run space programme plans to become a world leader in artificial intelligence, space, and clean energy by 2035. Currently, Chinese scientists believe that the data collected by FAST allows better learning of the origins of the universe. China’s decision to open its services and grant access to foreign scientists to its giant facility can become a great step for the global world of science.

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