China’s great space telescope begins operations

The world’s largest radio telescope has began operating in southwestern China, a project which Beijing aid will help humanity search for alien life.

The mega telescope began working around noon, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday, adding that it will explore space and search for signs of intelligent life, Al Jazeera reported.

The 1.2 billion yuan ($180 million) science mega-project is named after its huge dimensions: the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST.

Built within a valley surrounded by naturally-formed karst hills in China’s remote and mountainous southwestern Guizhou province, the FAST radio telescope’s huge dish is equal in size to 30 football pitches and was built from 4,000 individual metal panels.

It also required the relocation of 10,000 people living in the vicinity of the huge structure.

The feasibility study for the telescope was carried out over 14 years and construction took more than five years to complete.

Chinese state media have enthusiastically focused on FAST’s huge size, noting that it dwarfs by 200 metres the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which at 305 metres in diameter had been the world’s largest single-aperture telescope since the 1960s until the Chinese telescope was completed in July.