China scans deep space with world’s largest radio telescope
BEIJING — The world’s largest radio telescope began searching for signals from stars and galaxies and, perhaps, extraterrestrial life Sunday in a project demonstrating China’s rising ambitions in space and its pursuit of international scientific prestige.
Beijing has poured billions into such ambitious scientific projects as well as its military- backed space program, which saw the launch of China’s second space station earlier this month.
Measuring 1,640 feet, or 500 meters, in diameter, the radio telescope is nestled in a natural basin within a stunning land- scape of lush green karst formations in southern Guizhou province. It took five years and $180 million to complete and surpasses that of the 984-foot Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars that led to a Nobel Prize.
The official Xinhua News Agency said hundreds of astronomers and enthusiasts watched the launch of the Five-hundred- meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, in the county of Pingtang.
Researchers quoted by state media said FAST would search for gravitational waves, detect radio emissions from stars and galaxies and listen for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life.
Installation of the 4,450panel structure, nicknamed Tianyan, or the Eye of Heaven, started in 2011 and was completed in July.
The telescope requires radio silence within a 3mile radius, resulting in the relocation and compensation of more than 8,000 people from their homes in eight villages to make way for the facility, state media said.
CCTV reported that in a recent test the telescope received radio signals from a pulsar that was 1,351 light-years from Earth.
The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope in China went online Sunday.