The world’s largest radio telescope, Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) officially opened yesterday in China.
The telescope is aptly named after its diameter. The 500-meter-wide radio telescope stripped the world record from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico which is 305-meter-wide. FAST cost around $180 million while more than 8000 people were displaced from the vicinity of the radio telescope to create the requisite radio silence in the three-mile radius.
The officials at FAST said that the radio telescope will be employed for the:
“observation of pulsars as well as exploration of interstellar molecules and interstellar communication signals.”
Pulsars are the cores of implodes stars, only slightly larger than the sun. The radiation emitted can only be detected on earth if the telescope is sensitive enough. Qian Lei, an astronomer at the National Astronomical Observation in China, praised the sensitivity of the new radio telescope saying it is so powerful and sensitive that it managed to detect the radio waves emitting from a pulsar 1,351 light-years away.
Peng Bo, the deputy project manager of the new Chinese telescope, the feat is a definite moment of pride:
“For many years, we have had to go outside of China to make observations — and now we have the largest telescope.”
See more images of the world’s largest radio telescope below:
FAST will also be used to study the evolution of galaxies and the relation between the interstellar molecules. The team involved in the development of FAST hopes that the next-gen radio telescopes will help in discovering the behaviour of gases in galaxies.