The new telescope is truly gigantic. Image Credit: NAO / FAST
The world's largest filled-aperture radio telescope is about to start operating after several years of testing.
Known as the Five Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the new observatory, which is situated in southern China, has a diameter of 1,600ft and cost $180 billion to build.
Its testing and commissioning phase began in 2016 and is now nearing completion.
Its scientific goals will include studying pulsars, detecting interstellar molecules, conducting a large scale neutral hydrogen survey and looking for evidence of extraterrestrial communications.
Given that FAST is already tipped to be three times as sensitive as the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico, it should be very interesting indeed to see what, if anything, it manages to pick up.
"In the process of observing signals from celestial bodies, we also collect signals that might be emitted by humans or extraterrestrial intelligence," said Zhu Ming, director of the scientific observation and data division at the FAST operations and development center.
"However, this is a huge amount of work, since most signals we see - 99% of them - are various noises, so we need to take our time to identify the signals we want in the noises."
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