World’s largest telescope under construction

Sudeep Singh, 27 July, 2015: China is on a mission to build the world’s largest telescope. The project began in 2011. The telescope is called FAST (Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope). This telescope consists of 500 meter tool and a dish the size of 30 football pitches making it larger than the previous largest telescope in Puerto Rico Arecibo Observatory which is only 305 meters (1000 feet) in diameter. The perimeter of this telescope is about 1.6 km and it takes up to 40 minute walk to circle around the single-aperture spherical telescope.

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The construction which began in March 2011 is due to be completed next year. On Thursday, technicians have already began attaching 4,450 triangular shaped panels to the telescope’s reflector.

“Panels can change their positions through connected wires and parallel robots. We can control their position with an accuracy of 1 mm,” said Zheng Yuanpeng, chief engineer of the telescope’s panel project.

The construction is being carried out deep in the mountains in the Karst depression of the south-western Guizhou Province. This location was specifically chosen as it is isolated from towns or residents and that the telescope requires a ‘radio silence’ to pick up accurate signals.

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“A radio telescope is like a sensitive ear, listening to distinguish meaningful radio messages from white noise in the universe. It is like identifying the sound of cicadas in a thunderstorm,” said Chinese astronaut Nan Rendong, the chief scientist of the FAST project.

For visitors to witness this wonder, an observation platform is being built on one of the hills surrounding the telescope.

 

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