Beijing: China is hurriedly giving finishing touches to what is being hailed as the world's largest radio telescope designed to find signs of alien life following NASA's recent discovery of 'Earth 2.0' with the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.
The construction of the telescope began in March 2011 and is set to finish next year.
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Built in the deep mountains of China’s Guizhou province, the diameter of the telescope’s reflector will be 500 meters and will be made up of 4,450 panels. Each panel is an equilateral triangle with a side length of 11 metres.
Once completed, the single-aperture spherical telescope will be called FAST easily surpassing Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory which is 305 meters in diameter.
Nan Rendong, chief scientist of the FAST project with the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, informed that the bigger the dish is, the more capable the telescope is and the weaker messages it will be able to receive.
"A radio telescope is like a sensitive ear, listening to tell meaningful radio messages from white noise in the universe. It is like identifying the sound of cicadas in a thunderstorm," he said.
Wu Xiangping, director general of Chinese Astronomical Society, said that for years Chinese scientists have worked on "second hand" data collected by others and failed to achieve a breakthrough.
"Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages. It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe," Wu said.
(With PTI inputs)