The world’s largest radio telescope has begun working in south-western China, a project that will help humanity search for alien life, according to Beijing.
Measuring 500 meters in diameter, the radio telescope is located in a natural basin within a dazzling scenery of lush green karst formations in southern Guizhou province. It took five years and $180 million to complete and outshine that of the 300-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars.
The official Xinhua News Agency said that the hundreds of astronomers and enthusiasts watched the launch of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, in the county of Pingtang.
Researchers said FAST would search for gravitational waves, detect radio emissions from stars and galaxies and listen for symbols of intelligent outer space life.
“The ultimate goal of FAST is to discover the laws of the development of the universe,” Qian Lei, an associate researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told state broadcaster CCTV.
“In theory, if there is civilization in outer space, the radio signal it sends will be similar to the signal we can receive when a pulsar (spinning neutron star) is approaching us,” Qian said.
The telescope requires a radio silence within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius, ensuing in the rearrangement of more than 8,000 people from their homes in eight villages to make way for the capability, state media said.
CCTV reported that during a recent test, the telescope received radio signals from a pulsar that was 1,351 light-years from Earth.