Wednesday 23 August 2017

China completes the world's largest telescope to find aliens

The world's biggest telescope Credit: XINHUA
The world's biggest telescope Credit: XINHUA

Work has finished on the world's largest radio telescope, which will hunt for extraterrestrial life and explore space.

China fitted the final of 4,450 panels into the centre of the 500m-wide Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, over the weekend.

The telescope, which cost $180 million (£135 million) and took five years to build, will be switched on from September.

"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 Xiaonian, deputy head of the National Astonomical Observation under the Chinese Academy Sciences, which built the telescope, told Xhinua news agency. 

Around the size of 30 football pitches, the 500m-wide radio telescope is significantly larger than the current record holder, Puerto Rico's 300m-wide Arecibo Observatory. And it is 10 times more sensitive than Germany's 100-metre-wide steerable telescope, according to Xinhua.

From September, the telescope will be open for two or three years of early-stage research while it also undergoes trials and adjustments.

Before then 9,000 people that live within a 5 km radius of the centre will be relocated to ensure radio silence in the area.

After September, the telescope will be made available to researchers across the world, and will help detecting pulsars and gravitational waves. FAST is expected to eventually be able to detect amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which would signal life on other planets.

Researchers as far as 2,000 km away from the site in Pintang County, Guizhou, can use the telescope for remote observation and control.

President Xi Jingping is determined to establish China as a space power. Its ambitions include putting a man on the moon by 2036 and building a space station, the first module of which will be launched in 2018.

The country recently unveiled the world's most powerful supercomputer that is almost three times as powerful as its nearest competitor.

China's rival to space exploration, Nasa, will this week reach Jupiter with its Juno spacecraft. If the mission is successful it could solve the mystery of the swirling storm clouds and whether the planet was the first in the solar system.

Reuters

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