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World's Largest Radio Telescope-FAST
Jun 01, 2016

FAST, the world's largest single-aperture telescope, is start working unofficially from May 30. It overtakes the Arecibo Observatory in the US territory of Puerto Rico, which is 305 metres (1000 feet) in diameter.

Salient Features

  • The Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) nestles in a bowl-shaped valley between hills in the Dawodang depression in southwestern province of Guizhou in China.

  • Being a more sensitive telescope, it can receive weaker and more distant radio messages too.

  • The dish have a perimeter of about 1.6 kilometres, and there are no towns within five kilometres, giving it ideal surroundings to listen for signals from space.

  • FAST have a spherical reflector 500 metres in diameter sitting in a natural depression. Because of its size, the dish itself will not move. 

  • 4450 triangular-shaped panels are attached to the telescope's reflector.

  • Construction on FAST began in 2011, and costs 1.2 billion Yuan ($260 million).

The region's karst topography—a landscape of porous rock fissured with deep crevasses and underground caves and streams—is ideal for draining rainwater and protecting the reflector.

Till now, Chinese scientists have relied on old data collected by others in their research and the new telescope is expected to greatly enhance their capacity to observe outer space.

What are Radio Telescopes?

  • Radio telescopes are used to study naturally occurring radio light from stars, galaxies, black holes, and other astronomical objects. 

  • Radio telescopes are also used to send out radio signals and bounce them off objects like asteroids and the other planets in our Solar System. 

  • These signals are detected by the telescope when they return to Earth, and used to create images.

  • These specially-designed telescopes observe the longest wavelengths of light, ranging from 1 millimeter to over 10 meters long. 

  • For comparison, visible light waves are only a few hundred nanometers long, and a nanometer is only 1/10,000th the thickness of a piece of paper!

  • Naturally-occurring radio waves are extremely weak by the time they reach us from space. 

  • A cell phone signal is a billion-billion times more powerful than the cosmic waves these telescopes detect.

  • Every radio telescope has an antenna on a mount and at least one piece of receiver equipment to detect the signals.  

  • Because cosmic radio sources are extremely weak, radio telescopes are the largest telescopes in the world, and only the most sensitive radio receivers are used inside them. 

  • Huge radio telescopes like FAST can only be built in certain places. They require a large, naturally dish-shaped area for construction.


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