China turns on world’s largest radio telescope

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China turned on the world’s largest radio telescope on Sunday. It bears the name ‘Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope’, or FAST. The telescope has a diameter of half a kilometer.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua reports that the telescope is located in Guizhou province. Its construction cost about 1.2 billion yuan, currently about 160 million euros. FAST’s duties include monitoring pulsars and searching for “interstellar and communications signals,” the news agency said. Earlier it emerged that the telescope should also be used to search for information about the origin of the universe and extraterrestrial life.

About eight thousand people had to leave their villages and move to another place before the telescope was built. For the optimal functioning of the FAST, a zone with a radius of five kilometers has been established around the structure, within which visitors must switch off their mobile devices. During a test, the telescope would have already proved its worth by collecting high-quality electromagnetic waves emanating from a pulsar at a distance of 1351 light-years.

Construction of the telescope began in 2011, and a total of 4,450 panels have been added to the dish since then. The official completion of construction already took place in July. The FAST is the largest radio telescope in the world. However, the Russian RATAN-600 is again the radio telescope with the largest diameter. This is 576 meters. However, that telescope has a smaller effective area.

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