China plans to switch on the world’s largest radio telescope on Sunday as it focuses much of its growing scientific ambitions on unlocking the fundamentals of the universe.

Along with other massive facilities that Beijing plans to build, the telescope, which as a diameter of 500 metres, could entice international researchers to the country as it tries to catch up with the United States in generating discoveries.

Officially named the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the facility in Guizhou will replace the telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory as the world’s largest single-aperture radio telescope.

Covering an area roughly the size of 30 soccer fields, it will scour a much bigger swathe of the sky than Arecibo for radio signals – including those possibly sent out by any aliens.

“It will be an extremely good telescope for studying some areas of astronomy, especially for the study of pulsars and the distribution of galaxies in the local universe,” said Donald Campbell, professor of astronomy at Cornell University and former director of the Arecibo Observatory.

Campbell said the telescope would make “significant contributions” to understanding the structure and history of the universe… see more

source: scmp