China to build world's largest radio telescope

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New Delhi, Dec 27 (ANI): China has officially started construction of a Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), which when completed, would be the world's largest radio telescope.

The dish-like telescope, as large as 30 football fields, will stand in a region of typical Karst depressions in Guizhou Province in China, when it's completed in 2013.

Chinese scientists and officials selected Dawodang, Pingtang County as the site, where a Karst valley will match the shape of the huge bowl-like astronomical instrument.

The sparsely populated, underdeveloped region will provide a quiet environment to ensure the electromagnetic waves, the crucial requirement of operation, are not interrupted by human activities.

According to the National Astronomical Observatory (NAO), the major developer of the program, the facility will greatly improve China's capacity for astronomical observation.

FAST's main spherical reflector will be composed of 4,600 panels. Its observation sensitivity will be 10 times more powerful than the 100-m aperture steerable radio telescope in Germany.

Its overall capacity will be 10 times larger than what is now the world's largest (300 m) Arecibo radio telescope developed by the United States, according to Nan Rendong, the chief scientist of the project and an NAO researcher.

"The project, costing more than 700 million yuan (102.3 million US dollars), will allow international astronomers and scientists to discover more of the secrets of the universe based on cutting-edge technologies," said Zhang Haiyan, an NAO official in charge of construction.

FAST could also be a highly sensitive passive radar to monitor satellites and space debris, which would be greatly helpful for China's ambitious space program.

The telescope could also help to look for other civilizations by detecting and studying communication signals in the universe. (ANI)

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