The Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) – now under construction in southwest China’s Guizhou Province – is going well. Construction began in 2011 and is set to be completed by September, 2016. When completed, China’s new radio telescope will be the largest in the world.
As its name suggests, this new radio telescope will have a diameter of 500 meters (1,600 feet). That’s in contrast to the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, which is 305 meters (1,000 feet) across.
Like Arecibo, the new ‘scope lies within a natural hollow, or karst, in the landscape. When finished, it’ll have 4,600 triangular panels for reflecting and focusing the radio waves. Unlike Arecibo, which has a fixed spherical curvature, FAST will use active optics. Its surface will adjust in different directions with more flexibility than the surface of Arecibo. That means it’ll cover the sky within 40° from the zenith, or overhead point, in contrast to Arecibo’s 20° range.
A possible application is to listen for radio waves from other advanced civilizations, but there are many astronomical questions as well, which the telescope will help answer.
The video below was acquired via drone …
Li Di, the chief scientist of the National Astronomical Observatories Chinese Academy of Sciences, said:
FAST will remain the best in the world in the next 20 to 30 years after it is completed. FAST can answer questions not only limited to astronomy but questions about humanity and nature. The scientific potential of this telescope is hard to predict.
Bottom line: The Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China is progressing on schedule and should be completed in September 2016.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.