China has recently completed the construction of what seems to be the largest radio telescope in the entire world. Claimed to be as big as “30 football fields”, the colossal structure, known as the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), has been designed to look for alien life on far-away planets. The initiative, according to President Xi Jinping, is intended to make the country a front-runner in the ongoing space exploration race.
Built over the course of five years, the FAST is to be managed by the nation’s space agency – Chinese Academy of Sciences’ National Astronomical Observatory (NAOC). Measuring more than 500 meters in width, the telescope is significantly larger than the previous record holder, the 300-meter-wide Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Speaking about the new project, Zheng Xiaonian, the deputy head of the space agency, was reported saying:
The project has the potential to search for more strange objects to better understand the origin of the universe and boost the global hunt for extraterrestrial life.
Once operational, the FAST will be used to detect amino acids on distant planets, which would in turn point toward the presence of extraterrestrial life forms. As the developers explain, the $180 million telescope features an incredibly futuristic design, containing as many as 4,450 panels. Getting it up and running, however, has required the Chinese government to displace nearly 9,000 people residing in the poverty-afflicted Guizhou province.
What is more, those living within three miles from the structure were also made to leave, as a way of ensuring that no other signals disrupted the telescope’s normal operations. According to officials, each of the displaced individuals were recompensed with approximately $1,800. Researchers are currently gearing up to test the massive telescope. If everything goes according to plan, the FAST will be up and running by September.
To know more about the project, head over to the National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.