China’s alien search is jumping up to a new level as it announces the relocation of 9000 people to make way for the world’s largest telescope. Chinese scientists say they hope their new telescope will be successful in detecting extraterrestrial life in the Universe.
If anything can find intelligent alien life it will be this monster of a radio telescope, say astronomers across the world.
The telescope, which is 500 metres (1,640 feet) wide, is located in Guizhou province. It consists of 4,450 triangle panels that will reflect radio signals from ultra-distant parts of our Universe.
With a diameter of half-a-kilometre, the FAST telescope is a mighty beast. Chinese scientists aim to use it to search deep into the distant Universe to seek out intelligent life. (Image: ecns.cn)
FAST will take top spot from Arecibo
The world’s largest telescope is currently the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which has a diameter of 300 metres (984 feet). The new Chinese device – known as FAST, which stands for Five hundred metre Aperture Spherical Telescope – will take first place by a long way.
FAST is uniquely designed, with 4,350 panels that move up and down – this allows the whole hemisphere to turn right round and reshape.
The project, which was announced several years ago and began in 2011, means moving 9,110 people from their homes in the Luodian and Pingtang counties and helping them rehouse elsewhere. Xinhua news agency says that according to Chinese authorities, they will be moved to four settlements by the end of September, 2016.
According to local news sources, each family that is displaced will receive 12,000 yuan ($1,841, £1,288, €1,653) from the provincial reservoir and eco-migration bureau.
Li Yuecheng, Secretary General of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference said that in order to allow for a safe ‘electromagnetic wave environment’, residents will be relocated within five kilometres (3.1 miles) of the new telescope.
According to the official FAST website: “Compared with its precursor – Arecibo – FAST has an advantage of a factor of 2 in raw sensitivity and a factor of 5-10 in surveying speed. FAST will also cover two to three times more sky area thanks to its innovative design of an active primary surface. A science instrument with an order of magnitude improvement in any of its capacities which is also able to explore new dimensions in parameter space is likely to generate unexpected discoveries.” (Image: fast.bao.ac.cn)
FAST far more powerful than Arecibo
In an interview with China Daily, Li Di, a scientist who works at the National Astronomical Observatories, said regarding FAST’s signal receiving area:
“With a larger signal receiving area and more flexibility, Fast will be able to scan two times more sky area than Arecibo, with three to five times higher sensitivity.”
According to the Director-General of the Chinese Astronomical Society, Wu Xiangping, FAST will be able to search for intelligent aliens outside of the Milky Way (our galaxy) and also explore the origins of the Universe.
FAST’s working mechanism is similar to that of any TV antenna on a roof, says Li. However, FAST is so much bigger the “if you fill it with wine, every one of the world’s seven billion people could get a share of about five bottles,” he told China Daily.
FAST will be completed in June 2016, and if all goes according to plan, should be up and running by the end of September this year. It underwent its final tests in November 2015.
Video – Final preparations for world’s largest telescope