World’s Largest Radio Telescope ‘FAST’ Begins Formal Operations

Mankind has always been fascinated with the idea of the presence of extraterrestrial life. Moving closer to this aspiration, China has completed the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, putting it into formal operation after a productive three-year trial.

Representing an enormous step forward for astronomy, the telescope will be open to researchers from around the world, providing them with an opportunity and a powerful tool to explore the mysteries of the universe.

The Five-Hundred –Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) is a single-dish telescope with a diameter of half a kilometer and its existence expands by four times the volume of space range that radio telescopes can effectively explore. Though only 300 meters of its diameters can be used at a time. It is located in southwest China’s Guizhou Province, amidst a naturally deep and round karst depression.

China’s Largest Radio Telescope FAST Begins Formal Operations

Five-Hundred –Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) / Image: Xinhua Net

FAST is nicknamed Tianyan, which translates as “Eye of the Sky” or “Eye of Heaven”. The dish itself comprises close to 4,500 individual panels and claims upward of 2,200 elevators on its underside to help shape the surface to aim at different parts of the sky.

In over two years, FAST has identified 102 new pulsars, more than the total number of pulsars discovered by European and American research teams during the same period.

It has made it possible for humans to detect extremely low-frequency Nahertz gravitational waves for the first time by improving the timing accuracy of pulsars to about 50 times the previous level.

Scientists from the US, Britain and Pakistan have worked at FAST. More global collaborations are expected in areas like gravitational wave detection and very-long baseline interferometry (VLBI) following its formal operation.

China’s Largest Radio Telescope FAST Begins Formal Operations

Five-Hundred –Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) / Image: Xinhua Net

About 7,000 residents were living in the vicinity to ensure the smooth performance of the telescope. An astronomy-themed park has been built around the site of FAST, drawing a large number of visitors and tourists.

The construction of the telescope cost around $170 million. Initially proposed in 1994, the construction of FAST began in 2011. The final structure of the telescope was achieved in September 2016, and since then it has undergone extensive testing.

After a three-year trial, FAST has marked its official formal opening in January 2020.

Via: Xinhua Net

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