China, according to the state?s press release, has finished installing the world?s largest radio telescope. The project was completed in the morning of July 3 when the last of the 4,450 panels was fitted into the middle of the big dish. This involved the installation of the last triangular panel reflector. Work began 10:45 a.m. and lasted for just about 40 minutes. There were about 300 people present for the momentous event–from builders, scientists and experts to science fiction enthusiasts and reporters.
This behemoth is the size of 30 football fields and looks like it is nestled quite comfortably in a cutout of a mountain in the Pingtang county of the Guizhou province. The project began in 2011 with a 1.2-billion-yuan ($180 million) budget.
The official name for the world?s largest radio telescope is the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope or FAST. Once it has undergone debugging and trials, FAST will be 10 times more sensitive than the steerable 100-meter telescope near Bonn, Germany. Now, it is even bigger than the 305-meter radio telescope in Puerto Rico?s Arecibo Observatory.
According to Zheng Xiaonian, the deputy head of the National Astronomical Observation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, FAST will be the global leader for the next decade or, possibly, two. He also added that FAST has the potential to search for more strange objects that will better our understanding of the universe and its origin. In addition, Zheng claims that this will help give the international hunt for extraterrestrial life a significant boost.
As pointed out by BBC, China has stated that its space program has only peaceful purposes. The US Defense Department though is suspicious that China will pursue activities aiming to ?prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.?
FAST, the world?s largest radio telescope, is set to be operational this September.