"China May Be Earth's First Nation to Detect Alien Life" --Poised to Flip 'ON' Switch of World's Largest, Most Powerful Radio Telescope
China is ready to put on the "ear phones" and flip the "ON" switch for the world's largest, most powerful radio telescope, that is nearing completion in a vast, bowl-shaped valley in the mountainous southwestern province of Guizhou by the end of September, accompanied by regulations to protect the facility. Its unrivaled precision will allow astronomers to survey the Milky Way and other galaxies and detect faint pulsars, and work as a powerful ground station for future space missions.
"Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages," Wu Xiangping, director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society, "It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe," he added underscoring the China's race to be the first nation to discover the existence of an advanced alien civilization.
The construction of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, has entered its final phase. With a dish the size of 30 football fields, FAST, which measures 500 meters in diameter, dwarfs Puerto Rico's 300-meter Arecibo Observatory. Under the regulation, FAST requires radio silence within a 10-kilometer radius.
The Chinese government hopes that a more subtle benefit of the behemoth eye on the cosmos will entice some of the some of the brightest minds in science or astronomy studying abroad to return home to China. China is the leading nation in the world in the number of students it sends students abroad, especially for majors such as science or engineering.
FAST is the world's largest single-aperture telescope, overtaking the Arecibo Observatory in the US territory of Puerto Rico, which is 305 meters (1000 feet) in diameter. The dish will have a perimeter of about 1.6 kilometers, Xinhua said, and there are no towns within five kilometers, giving it ideal surroundings to listen for signals from space.
According to chief scientist from China’s National Astronomical Observations, Li Di, FAST will be able to scan up to twice more areas of the sky than Arecibo shown above, and it will have between three to five times the sensitivity. It’s in their hopes that if there is indeed alien life, this gargantuan will find it.
The region's karst topography -- a landscape of porous rock fissured with deep crevasses and underground caves and streams -- is ideal for draining rainwater and protecting the reflector. Unfortuately, citizens actually living in the area where the radio telescope will be built are being relocated. Some 2,000 families residing near the Pingtang and Luodian counties will be given $1,800 per individual for the forced relocation.
For years Chinese scientists have relied on "second hand" data collected by others in their research and the new telescope is expected to "greatly enhance" the country's capacity to observe outer space, Xinhua said. Beijing is accelerating its military-run multi-billion-dollar space exploration program, which it sees as a symbol of the country's progress. It has plans for a permanent orbiting station by 2020 and eventually to send a human to the moon.
Construction on the telescope started in March 2011.
The Daily Galaxy via AFP/Beijing