China opens up largest radio satellite to international scientists

Date:24 December 2020 Author: Lucinda Dordley

China has opened up the world’s biggest radio telescope to international scientists following the collapse of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Located in the Guizhou province is the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). Following two cable failures earlier this year, Arecibo’s radio telescope collapsed in November, shutting down the observatory for good.

Now, FAST is opening its doors to astronomers from around the world.

“Our scientific committee aims to make FAST increasingly open to the international community,” Wang Qiming, the chief inspector of FAST’s operations and development center told the news agency AFP during a visit to the telescope, according to the French news site AFP.

China will accept requests in 2021 from foreign scientists looking to use the instrument for their research, according to the report.

With its massive 500-meter diameter dish, FAST is not only larger than the now-destroyed Arecibo telescope, but it’s also three times more sensitive.

FAST, which began full operations in January of this year, is also surrounded by a 3-mile (5 kilometers) “radio silence” zone in which cellphones and computers are not allowed.

“We drew a lot of inspiration from its [Arecibo’s] structure, which we gradually improved to build our telescope,” Qiming said.

Radio telescopes like FAST use antennas and radio receivers to detect radio waves from radio sources in the cosmos, like stars, galaxies and black holes. These instruments can also be used to send out radio signals and even reflect radio light from objects in the solar system (like planets) to see what information might bounce back.

 

Picture: Twitter

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