China is now home to the world’s largest radio telescope as the gazillion or so pieces are being joined. The telescope will be ready soon and will soon allow access to a wide range of data that we couldn’t catch before.

Radio telescopes allow us to observe the heavens in a different spectrum, one that cannot be seen by naked eye. We observe and study the celestial bodies at a radio frequency, often monitoring their movement and properties in great detail. It is not possible with visual telescopes to do this. These telescopes are prominent landmarks and due to their sheer size and assembly problems, they are incredible engineering marvels. Some of these telescopes are really huge, and I am sure many of us have dreamed of roller skating on their giant parabolic dishes. I still want to do that, and the five hundred diameters of this colossal telescope could well be the biggest skating area in the world!

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The assembly of the astronomical device started in 2011 and finally now, the pieces of the dish array are being placed piece-by-piece. The dish telescope boasts of its huge size even in its name FAST (Five hundred meters Aperture spherical telescope). There are more than 4,450 reflector panels that will make up this sky viewing monster, and when completed, they will dwarf other radio telescopes by quite a margin. The largest radio dish in the world right now is in Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, and its diameter is only 305 meters.

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The FAST will be installed in a local depression just like other mega antennas in radio telescope to avoid Electromagnetic Interference. It works best when it is placed in an area void of any human contact, so there is a 3-mile are around the dish that has no presence of either humans or their interference signals. The area has complete radio silence planned so that the signals would not be disrupted. The Chinese space scientists working on radio signals will have unparalleled access to weaker strains of data that were inaccessible to mankind before. It will be a major upgrade for them from the “second hand” signals they have been using for quite some time.

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One of the main purposes of radio telescopes is the detection of intelligent life in outer space other than us. The radio signals generated by them can be picked up by the huge array of dishes and can even be analyzed to figure out what they mean. For people having the aesthetic appreciation of this beautiful piece of engineering, a perched platform nearby will give an unobstructed view of the telescope.

Time to book my ticket for China.