China's FAST Now the World's Only Remaining Giant Single-Dish Telescope, After Arecibo's Collapse

As Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico collapsed on December 1, China’s Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) remained the only giant single-dish telescope in the world.

China's FAST Now the World's Only Remaining Giant Single-Dish Telescope, After Arecibo's Collapse

By CJ Robles

With the loss of the astronomical landmark, the scientific community is left mourning as there is only one last giant left, which is the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in the Guizhou province of China.

China’s FAST is the world’s only remaining giant telescope

A YouTube video shows that the construction of China’s giant single-dish telescope began in 2011 and was completed in 2016. About 10,000 residents living within 5 kilometers in the Guizhou province in southwest China were relocated to give way for the $171 million observatory project, which took around five years to build.

According to Business Insider, FAST observatory was initially opened for local astronomers in April 2019 and in January, it became completely operational. It was dubbed by Chinese government as “Sky Eye” as its huge size would allow it to detect even the weakest radio-waves from materials and pulsars in faraway galaxies. About 60% of its 500-meter diameter can be easily used at any time.

This is now the world’s largest single dish telescope with an area that could hold up to 30 football fields. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the Chinese telescope has about 2.5 times higher sensitivity than Arecibo. It has been featured in an episode of an American science documentary series.

FAST could boost China’s astronomical progress

FAST is believed to play a vital role in advancing major breakthroughs in Chinese astronomy. The telescope would greatly help in China’s moon mission as its sensitivity and resolution will aid in producing critical research in the coming decades.

Currently, FAST has already made Chinese researchers to be at the core of studies on international rapid radio storms. The detection of recurring explosion of FRB180301 using FAST by a research team led by Peking University professor Li Kejia who is a National Astronomical Observatory researcher provided new data on the radiation origin of fast radio storms.

This also showed the role of the magnetosphere in fast radio storms’ radiation mechanism. The Kejia’s study was published in the journal Nature in October.

China has been making great significant progress in the race to space as its Chang’e-5 probe landed on the moon this week and collected lunar samples that were brought back to the orbiter.

After four years of operation catering domestic scientists, Chinese state media reported in November that FAST could be opened to foreign scientists by 2021, although the news was not yet confirmed by the National Astronomical Observatory, which oversees FAST.

Meanwhile, some scientists said that FAST cannot accomplish some functions that were being done at Arecibo observatory like transmitting signals and receiving their reflections from other planets.

International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research radio astronomy researcher from the University of Western Australia Liu Boyang told South China Morning Post that such feature allowed Arecibo to monitor near-Earth asteroids, which helps in “defending the Earth from space threats.” Perhaps in the future, FAST can also develop this technology.

Originally published at Tech times