China starts operation on world’s largest single-dish radio telescope
China has finalised the world’s biggest radio telescope, whose 503m (1650-feet)-wide dish will scan the heavens for signs of intelligent alien life, among other tasks.
With a dish the size of 30 football fields, Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) is by far the largest single-aperture telescope in the world (though arrays that link up multiple radio dishes cover more ground). The previous record holder in the field is the 300m (1000-feet)-wide Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
FAST was built in China’s Guizhou Province, more than 2000 kilometres southwest of Beijing. The US$180-million facility should help scientists learn more about the Universe’s early days, detect low-frequency gravitational waves and hunt for signals that may have been produced by distant alien civilisations.