China nears completion of World’s Largest Radio Telescope

FAST Radio Telescope image by Xinhua/Liu Xu

FAST Radio Telescope image by Xinhua/Liu Xu

The World’s Largest radio Telescope has been constructed in China’s Guizhou province. The Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST)  occupies the area of 30 football fields and was constructed at an estimated cost of 180 million dollars.

The telescope consists of 4,450 separate panels  designed to collect radio waves from  stars, nebulae, galaxies and other distant astronomical objects. The panels are installed in a spherical shape and focus radio waves to point above the center of the dish called the source cabin. Each panel  and has a number of holes 5mm in diameter for water drainage and to allow light to pass through. This is done for ecological purposes to allow vegetation under the telescope dish to survive and to prevent soil erosion.So far the panels have fared well with the weather of the location and have stood the test of hail and rain storms.

The six tall towers around the dish contain cables that support the source cabin which can be raised or lowered by servo motors to adjust to the frequencies of objects being observed. Cables attached to the panels themselves can make any needed corrections in the angle to help fine tune the instrument.

The  telescope dish forms a complementary contour with its natural mountainous surroundings;  a bowl shaped valley formed forty five million years ago.  To keep the create proper electro-magnetic environment,  residents within three miles of the site have been relocated in new homes at the expense of up eighteen hundred dollars per family.

The telescope is nearing completion and hopes to be in full operation  by September 2016. The new instrument will dwarf the existing Arecibo Observatory Telescope which is a mere 300 meters in diameter reaching further into the depths of the universe then ever before.

 

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