China operationalized the world’s largest radio telescope with a diameter of half-a-kilometer last week, state media reported, adding that the colossal device is expected to make major scientific discoveries in the coming years.
The “Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope” (FAST) is a single-dish telescope and is located in southwest China’s Guiyang city, the capital of Guizhou province.
The telescope has a receiving area of around 30 football fields.
The telescope was put to work on Saturday after three years of trial operation, the official news agency, Xinhua reported.
The telescope will gradually open to astronomers around the globe, providing them with a powerful tool to uncover the mysteries surrounding the genesis and evolutions of the universe.
All technical indicators of the telescope have reached or exceeded the planned level, and its performance is world-leading, Shen Zhulin, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said at the opening of the telescope.
Dubbed as “China Sky Eye”, FAST is about 2.5 times as sensitive as the second-largest telescope in the world and capable of receiving a maximum of 38 gigabytes of information per second.
“With a cost of nearly 1.2-billion-yuan (around US$170 million), FAST was completed in September 2016, over 20 years after it was proposed by Chinese astronomers,” state media reported.
According to state media, scientists from the United States, Britain and Pakistan along with their counterparts from China have worked at FAST.
“More global collaborations are expected in areas such as gravitational wave detection and very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) following its formal operation”.
The government has already put in place regulations around the telescope’s location to prevent human activities from affecting its work.
“No cell phones, no digital cameras, and no smart wearable devices – the Guizhou provincial government has revised a regulation to keep the noise down and prevent human activities from affecting the world’s largest telescope”.
“The blanket ban is enforced on radio equipment and electromagnetic gadgets, including tablets, speakers and drones, in the core silence zone of the FAST. The total quiet area of FAST includes a 5-km radius as the core zone, 5 km to 10 km radius as the intermediate zone and a peripheral zone that covers 10 km to 30 km in radius”.
More than 7,000 residents living in the vicinity were relocated because of the project.
They were moved to a town 10 km away from the telescope.
An astronomy-themed park has been built around the site of FAST, drawing a large number of visitors and tourists, the report said.