China scans deep space with world’s largest ra­dio tele­scope

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD -

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.

CHINATOPIX

The Five-hun­dred-me­ter Aper­ture Spher­i­cal Tele­scope in China went on­line Sun­day.

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