When it comes to space telescopes, bigger is typically better — and China just debuted one of the best.
CNN reports the world’s largest telescope is officially complete and ready for action, following a full five years of construction. With a dish that measures 1,640 feet — the equivalent of 30 football fields — the telescope blows the next-largest space telescope (the 1,000-foot Arecibo) out of the water. The size will come in handy with the dish’s mission to detect radio signals from distant planets. SETI officials say the dish will be able to “look faster and further” than anything else on the planet.
The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) will be able to detect hydrogen throughout the universe, as well as pulsars and gravitational waves, at a sensitivity level previously unavailable. When it comes to seeking out an alien civilization, the director of the NAO Radio Astronomy Technology Laboratory said the dish will be 5-10 times more likely to find an alien civilization, thanks to the increased sensitivity.
The massive dish is built into the hollow of a mountain in southwest China. The project cost a whopping $185 million, and the arduous construction process required 4,450 triangular panels to be lowered into place. It’s too big to ever move, though the triangles can be adjusted.
The dish came online this week, and scientists say it will have a field of vision twice as big as the Arecibo. We can’t wait to see what it finds.