China today commissioned the world’s largest radio telescope, a 4,450-panel reflector as large as 30 football pitches, which can help in better understanding the origin of the universe and boost global hunt for extraterrestrial life.
Hundreds of astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts witnessed the official launch of the 500 meter Aperture Spherical Telescope’s (FAST) mission in a karst valley in Pingtang County in Guizhou Province.
Work on the nearly 1.2 billion-yuan (USD 180 million) project started in 2011, 17 years after it was proposed by Chinese astronomers.
The installation of the telescope’s main structure — a 4,450-panel reflector as large as 30 football pitches was built at unique valley in southwest China where over 8,000 people have been evacuated as it requires quiet atmosphere.
FAST will require radio silence within a 5-kms radius.
Over 600 apartments have been built in two new settlements, about 10 kilometers to accommodate the displaced people.
The telescope, which is aimed at observing deep space was stated to be most visible project of China’s plans to transform into high-tech nation focussing on research in advanced science and technology moving away from cheap manufacturing.
The project has the potential to search for more strange objects to better understand the origin of the universe and boost the global hunt for extraterrestrial life, Zheng Xiaonian, deputy head of the National Astronomical Observation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which built the telescope said.
The radio telescope will be the global leader for the next 10 to 20 years, he said.