Chinese technicians have begun to assemble what will be the World’s largest radio telescope with a dish size of 30 football grounds.
Deep in the mountains of China’s Guizhou Province, technicians began work on the telescope’s reflector which is 500 metres in diameter, a 1.6 km perimeter, and has 4,450 triangular panels with a side length of 11 metres.
When it’s completed in 2016 the 500-metre aperture spherical telescope, known as FAST, will overtake Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory which is only 300 metres in diameter.
Chief Scientist of the FAST project with the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nan Rendong, told Chinese reporters the bigger the dish is the more capable the telescope is.
“A radio telescope is like a sensitive ear, listening to tell meaningful radio messages from white noise in the universe. It is like identifying the sound of cicadas in a thunderstorm,” Rendong said.
The radio telescope is being placed in the southern part of Guizhou in a naturally formed bowl-liked valley. Engineers chose the spot because there are three hills 500-metres away from one another creating a valley that is perfect to support the telescope.
The local landscape is good for draining rainwater underground and protecting the reflector. The surrounding area has “radio silence” with no towns or cities within five kilometres of the area.
The construction of the telescope began March 2011 and the project is set to finish next year.