China is getting ready to assemble the world’s largest Radio Telescope The Five-Hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST). Construction of the radio telescope began in 2011, and the project will be completed in 2016. When finished the dish size of the telescope will be equal to 30 football grounds.
The telescope is being constructed in a naturally formed valley shaped like a bowl that will be big enough to hold the 1600 feet brute of a radio telescope. The telescope’s reflector is made up of 4450 panels. Every panel is shaped like an equilateral triangle with the side length of 11 meters.
Nan Rendong, chief scientist of the FAST project with the National Astronomical Observatory was talking to Xinhua news agency and said that the radio telescope is like a sensitive ear. The bigger the dish size, the more sensitive it is to receive the tiniest of messages and signals.
The panels of the telescope have been designed in such a way that their position can be altered with the aid of connected wires and parallel robots. FAST engineers have ensured that the panel’s position can be adjusted with the accuracy of 1 mm.
The shape of the dish can be modified, and the feed cabin where the radio waves will be focused will be suspended from six cables. The cabin can be moved around the surface of the dish so that the telescope will be able to detect sources within 40 degrees of the zenith.
The place was ideal for locating the telescope because there are no cities within a 5 km radius ensuring radio silence that is necessary for the working of the radio telescope. The location is also ideal since it can drain rainwater underground thus protecting the reflector.
Engineers are expecting a lot of tourists, who will like to see the gargantuan radio telescope. So they have erected an ‘Observation Platform’ on top of one of the hills surrounding the FAST telescope.