China building the world’s biggest radio telescope FAST

24 Jul 2015

China has begun construction on what will soon become the world’s largest radio telescope, allowing the country to peer into space without relying on the likes of NASA.

The dish will be the size of 30 football pitches, with the 500m Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (Fast) sitting in a valley in Guizhou.

According to Chinese news reports, technicians started putting together the thousands of panels on Thursday, with the completion of the construction seeing China’s new toy surpassing the world’s current largest telescope, the Arecibo Observatory.

“Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages,” said Wu Xiangping, director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society, who noted that in the past his team has been forced to rely on hand-me-down information from foreign bodies.

“It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe.”

China space program

China has big plans for space, with hopes of a space station orbiting Earth by 2020. But targets are being set even higher.

Earlier this year it was revealed that a team of scientists in China were working on plans for a giant solar power station that would orbit the Earth, beaming energy back to the planet through microwaves.

Last October a lunar mission by a Chinese spacecraft captured stunning images of the dark side of the moon, with the thirst for space exploration growing stronger ever since.

China space program - lunar mission

For this project, though, chief scientist Nan Rendong said that the bigger the dish is, the better.

In this instance, the perimeter of the dish will be about 1.6km, and it will take 40 minutes to walk around it.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic