China is currently in the process of building the world’s largest single-aperture telescope, FAST, according to reports emerging in its state media. Its reflector the size of more than 30 football fields, the telescope is an attempt by China (under the project Breakthrough Listen, envisioned by English physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner) to find signs of alien life after NASA’s groundbreaking announcement that an ‘Earth 2.0’ was discovered by its planet-hunting Kepler telescope.
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) July 24, 2015
According to Xinhua, built in the deep mountains of China’s Guizhou province, the diameter of the telescope’s reflector will be 500 meters and will be made up of 4,450 panels, easily surpassing Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, “only” 305 meters in diameter. With a perimeter of more than 1.5 km, it will take about 40 minutes to complete one round of the telescope. The valley in Guizhou has “radio silence,” with no habitation in the radius of five kilometers and only one county in the radius of 25 kilometers.
For years, China has been borrowing external data to supplement its own space research, but now with the development of FAST already in advanced stages, the country hopes to “greatly enhance” its capacity to observe outer space.
Wu Xiangping, director-general of Chinese Astronomical Society, said the telescope will help China advance its search for radio signals beyond Milky Way, the Economic Times reported.
“Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages. It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe.”
It is interesting to know that the funding for the project comes from Russian internet billionaire Yuri Milner, and is backed by none other than Stephen Hawking, considerably advancing the efforts towards scanning the skies for extraterrestrial life. It was announced earlier this week that Breakthrough Listen, the most ambitious project ever undertaken by mankind to look for signs of life in other parts of the universe, had been launched by Milner and Hawking, with an initial funding of $100 million. China’s FAST joins Australia’s Green Bank Observatory (the largest steerable telescope in the world) and California’s Lick Observatory as the leading centers that will be responsible for mankind’s search for alien life in the coming decades.
Speaking to the Russian Times, Milner, who has a background in physics, said the development of FAST is not only a giant leap for China, but significantly aims to benefit space research in general.
“I think it’s an important project for the whole humanity. We now have the technology, we have the capability, we have the software and hardware to really try to get to the answer to this pretty fundamental question: are we alone in the universe? And I think in the next 10 years we will be able to make significant progress, which in order of magnitude more significant than in the last 55 years.”
First of 4,600 panels for China's FAST telescope shipped, says state media. Will be world's largest radio telescope pic.twitter.com/Yt9FTZIE1d
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) July 21, 2015
Only time will tell if the near future holds an astonishing leap in humankind’s search for alien life, but with FAST, China has surely established itself as one of the front-runners in this search.
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