Tuning in to outer space


The world's largest radio telescope, which can be used to listen to signals coming from galaxies far, far away, is nearly ready.

By September next year, the 500m aperture spherical telescope (Fast), about the size of 30 football pitches, will be up and running in Pingtang county, China, where it is sited in a naturally formed bowl-shaped valley.

Work on the telescope started in 2011, deep in the mountains of the south-western Guizhou province.

Chinese astronomer Nan Rendong, the chief scientist of the Fast project, said: "A radio telescope is like a sensitive ear, listening to distinguish meaningful radio messages from white noise in the universe. It is like identifying the sound of cicadas in a thunderstorm."

With a perimeter measuring about 1.6km, it will take up to 40 minutes to walk around the single-aperture telescope.

The new telescope aims to boost Chinese scientists' capacity to observe outer space.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2015, with the headline 'Tuning in to outer space'. Print Edition | Subscribe