It had been a long time but it was always anticipated that China will release its massive telescope someday. It had undergone tests for over three years – probably enough time to prove that this device means business. Now, finally, China opens up its humongous Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (500-meter) for use by astronomers throughout the globe. It is the largest radio telescope(single-dish) on the planet.
The characteristics of the telescopes are already making the astronomer’s community all excited. It can scan twice the area of sky as the second-largest single-dish telescope present in the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. It can detect the faintest radio waves that celestial objects emanate – from pulsars and even galaxies far away. Maybe we might even discover faraway worlds with alien civilizations!
The construction of this telescope was difficult because it was at a remote location. It was present in Southwest China and it took the engineers about 5 years to make it. It is made out of over 4000 aluminum panels. The design was quite radical and that did attract a lot of people towards the project. However, only experienced engineers were appointed to work on it. Well, the scientific community is already in praise of this invention. If it works well (as per the testing results), then it will widen our cosmic discovery capacity a lot more. For example, during testing, it was able to spot over 100 pulsars, which are the spinning cores of dead stars. According to NASA, scientists were aware of a total of 2000 pulsars only, till 2017.
The telescope is quite sensitive too. It has been named Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope or FAST. It has been able to detect hundreds of fast radio bursts from a single source (known). They were not strong enough to be picked up by devices used earlier. The telescope can also spot very distant exoplanets using just the radio emissions as a guide. It was possible theoretically but we did not have the device to make use of it before.
Well, it’s clear that this telescope can bring a landmark change in the world of cosmic discovery. The only problem is – while the telescope can pick up loads of data, we do not have the equipment to store all of it.