Beijing, July 3: The world's largest telescope built in China, having a reflector of the size of 30 football fields, is poised for a trial-run as installation work has been completed after the last of 4,450 panels was fitted into the centre of the big dish today.
Hoisting the last triangular panel to the reflector lasted about 40 minutes. It was a landmark step for the telescope's planned launch of operations in September, state-run news agency reported.
About 300 people, including builders, experts, science fiction enthusiasts and reporters, witnessed the installation at a karst valley in Pingtang County in the southwestern province of Guizhou.
Scientists will then begin debugging and trial observation of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), said Zheng Xiaonian, deputy head of the National Astronomical Observation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which built the telescope.
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 said.
The radio telescope will be the global leader for the next 10 to 20 years, he said. Upon completion, the telescope will dwarf Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, which is 300 meters in diameter.
It will also be 10 times more sensitive than the steerable 100-meter telescope near Bonn, Germany, he said. Work on USD 180 million FAST project began in 2011.