China is building reflection panels for the world’s biggest radio telescope, the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). This radio telescope with an aperture of 500 meters is under construction in a natural basin in Guizhou Province. It is funded by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and managed by the National Astronomical Observatory (NAOC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The reflection panels (the core components of the telescope) are being developed by China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC).
A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy. Unlike optical telescopes they operate in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Radio telescopes are typically large dish-like antennas used individually or in an array. Radio observatories are preferably located far from major centers of population to avoid electromagnetic interference.
According to CETC the telescope-under-construction has thousands of reflection panels; eventually the positions of these panels can be adjusted simultaneously to better receive radio waves from moving celestial bodies. With these characteristics the telescope is twice as sensitive as the Arecibo Observatory operated by the United States. (Interestingly FAST was previously announced to become 3-times as sensitive, this is either a simpel typing error or an adjustment in expectation.) The new telescope is also capable of collecting data even from the outer rim of the solar system.
The first reflection panel out of the total of 4,450 panels will be completed in May this year, and all parts of the telescope should be finished and installed by September 2016. As said, once successfully constructed the telescope will become the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.
Featured Image: FAST (2014-09-13), NAOC