After five years of construction, the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope is almost ready.
The Five hundred metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) dwarfs the previous record holder, the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, which measures just 300 metres in diameter.
“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 extra-terrestrial life,” according to Zheng Xiaonian, the deputy head of National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC).
The new telescope will be one of the most sensitive, able to receive weaker and more distant radio signals, helping to explore the nature, origins and evolution of the universe.
"FAST's potential to discover an alien civilisation will be 5 to 10 times that of current equipment, as it can see farther and darker planets," says Peng Bo, director of NAOC.
The telescope has a collecting area (surface for radio waves to bounce off) of 196,000 metres squared.
Once the radio waves bounce off the collecting area, they’ll hit a receiver that is being built by the CSIRO.
The 19 beam receiver is a key component of the scope, making it practical for FAST to search a large portion of the sky for faint and hidden galaxies.
CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall says the project is a great example of Australia’s innovative technology being delivered on the world stage.
“The powerful receiver we’ve created for FAST is the result of our long history developing cutting-edge astronomy technology to receive and amplify radio waves from space,” Acting Director CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, Dr Douglas Bock said.
“Extending our technology and collaboration to China and working on what will become the world’s largest radio telescope really cements our position as a global R&D leader in this space."