China Completes World’s Biggest Radio Telescope in Search of Alien Life

© REUTERS / China DailyThe last panel of China's world largest radio telescope named "FAST", is installed in Pingtang county, Guizhou Province, China, July 3, 2016
The last panel of China's world largest radio telescope named FAST, is installed in Pingtang county, Guizhou Province, China, July 3, 2016 - Sputnik International
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China's scientists are ready to study deep space after placing the final panel into the Five-hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) on Sunday.

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China has completed the construction of the world's largest radio telescope, the Five-hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), Xinhua reported.

On Sunday morning engineers in Pingtang County, southwest China's Guizhou Province, placed the last of the telescope's 4,450 panels into position.

Construction of the $180 million, 500 meter telescope began in 2011, and it is now set to begin observing the universe this September. 

FAST is evidence of China's increasing investment in science – it is now second only to the US in terms of research spending and the number of scientific papers published.

It has seven receivers, five of which were made in China, and two of which were manufactured in conjunction with Australian and US companies.

The project's scientists said FAST will be able to help research on gravitational waves, and further the search for alien life.

"FAST's potential to discover an alien civilization will be 5 to 10 times that of current equipment, as it can see farther and darker planets," said Peng Bo, director of the NAO Radio Astronomy Technology Laboratory.

With a 500 meter diameter, FAST's curved dish is much larger than the 305-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which was built in 1963 and was previously the world's previous biggest radio telescope.

© AP Photo / Liu XuIn this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, the sun sets above the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in Pingtang County in southwestern China's Guizhou Province Monday, June 27, 2016
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, the sun sets above the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in Pingtang County in southwestern China's Guizhou Province Monday, June 27, 2016 - Sputnik International
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, the sun sets above the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in Pingtang County in southwestern China's Guizhou Province Monday, June 27, 2016

Peng added that FAST is ten times more sensitive than the steerable Effelsberg radio telescope at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany.

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For the first two years of operation FAST will be used by Chinese scientists doing early-stage research, after which its data will be available to scientists worldwide.

The telescope's large size means it will be able to collect more of the radio waves emitted by objects in deep space. 

These waves have extremely long wavelengths, ranging in length from about a millimeter to more than 100km.

As well as extraterrestrial life, FAST will try to pick up ancient signals of hydrogen, one of the main building blocks of the Universe, to try to understand its formation. 

It will also search for new stars, in particular a rapidly rotating neutron star called a pulsar (pulsating radio star) that emits a beam of electromagnetic radiation.

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