GUIYANG, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- China officially started construction of a
Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the largest in the
world, in a remote southwest region on Friday.
Preparation and research for the project took some 14 years.
The dish-like telescope, as large as 30 football fields, will stand in a
region of typical Karst depressions in Guizhou Province when it's done in 2013.
Karst depressions are usually located in regions plentiful in limestone and
dolomite, where groundwater has enlarged openings to form a subsurface drainage
The facility will greatly improve China's capacity for astronomical
observation, according to the National Astronomical Observatory (NAO), the major
developer of the program.
FAST's main spherical reflector will be composed of 4,600 panels. Its
observation sensitivity will be 10 times more powerful than the 100-m aperture
steerable radio telescope in Germany. Its overall capacity will be 10 times
larger than what is now the world's largest (300 m) Arecibo radio telescope
developed by the United States, according to Nan Rendong, the chief scientist of
the project and an NAO researcher.
The project, costing more than 700 million yuan (102.3 million U.S.
dollars), will allow international astronomers and scientists to discover more
of the secrets of the universe based on cutting-edge technologies, said Zhang
Haiyan, an NAO official in charge of construction.
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, Nan said.
Pulsars have allowed scientists to make several major discoveries, such as
confirmation of the existence of gravitational radiation as predicted by the
theory of general relativity.
FAST could also be a highly sensitive passive radar to monitor satellites
and space debris, which would be greatly helpful for China's ambitious space
The telescope could also help to look for other civilizations by detecting
and studying communication signals in the universe.
Chinese scientists and officials selected Dawodang, Pingtang County as the
site, where a Karst valley will match the shape of the huge bowl-like
The sparsely populated, underdeveloped region will provide a quiet
environment to ensure the electromagnetic waves, the crucial requirement of
operation, are not interrupted by human activities.
Construction of a new residential area about 60 km away also began on
Friday to relocate 12 households. By 2013, when the telescope is to be in
operation, all 61 farmers will move to their new houses in Kedu town, with
farmland allocated by the government.
"The project is beyond my imagination. I'm glad to see that an ordinary old
guy like me could contribute to the country's science program," said Yang
The project was approved by the National Development and Reform Commission,
the country's top planning body, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the
Chinese Academy of Sciences and its subordinating NAO, Guizhou Province and