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Telescopic vision

Telescope

The last deflector panel was hoisted into place on Sunday, reports Xinhua, meaning that China has completed construction of the world’s largest radio telescope.

Known as FAST, the 500-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope will now scan outer space for signs of intelligent life.

Readers will recall we first mentioned FAST in WiC314, noting that the Rmb1.2 billion ($180 million) project in Guizhou had taken five years to build. It also led to the resettlement of 9,000 inhabitants near the site on fears that they would create disruptive ‘white noise’ around the telescope.

China’s superscope is bigger than the previous record holder in Puerto Rico, and part of what the Financial Times describes as China’s drive to invest in “prestige sciences”. A leading official with the National Astronomical Observation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences told Xinhua that the telescope would help “better understand the origin of the universe and boost the global hunt for extraterrestrial life”.

Ironically a similar kind of telescope did manage to find aliens in China’s best-selling sci fi novel The Three Body Problem (see WiC262), which is currently being transformed into a film franchise (see WiC280).

As to the telescope’s gigantic size, a scientist involved in the project says that, if you were to fill FAST with wine, each of the world’s seven billion people could drain five bottles from the contents.


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