According to news sources, in a remote southwest region of China, scientists have officially begun construction of a Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), which upon completion, would be the largest made anywhere in the world. The dish-like telescope is as large as thirty football fields and is designated to stand in a region known for its Karst depressions in Guizhou Province when it's completed. (Karst depressions occur in regions where limestone and dolomite are plentiful and where the groundwater has enlarged openings that form a drainage system under the ground’s surface.)
Guizhou Province is a region, which is under-developed and is a site where a Karst valley will match the shape of the huge bowl-like astronomical instrument. The area was specifically selected because of its sparse population, which will ensure a quiet environment for the electromagnetic waves. It is a crucial requirement of operation that they not be interrupted by human activities.
According to The National Astronomical Observatory (NAO), this telescope will greatly enhance China's capacity for astronomical observation. At a cost of more than 7 million yuan ($102.3 million US dollars), FAST’s observation sensitivity is expected to be 10 times more powerful than Germany’s 100-m (about 350 feet) aperture steerable radio telescope. The main spherical reflector will be composed of 4,600 panels and its overall capacity will be ten times larger than what is now the world's largest (300 m, or 984 feet) Arecibo radio telescope developed by the United States.
According to Nan Rendong, the chief scientist of the project and an NAO researcher:
“Scientists have so far observed only 1,760 pulsars, which are strongly magnetized spinning cores of dead stars. With the help of FAST, they could find as many as 7,000 to 10,000 within a year.”
Zhang Haiyan, another NAO official in charge of constriction, said:
“This project will allow international astronomers and scientists to discover more of the secrets of the universe based on cutting-edge technologies.”
This telescope may well prove to be as monumental to the science of astronomy as the printing press was to the written word.
Is its success in the stars?
Time will tell.