China plans giant radio telescope

China has confirmed that it is to build the world’s biggest single ear on the universe. The 500-metre wide radio telescope dish is expected to make thousands of discoveries of fast-spinning “lighthouses” in the universe called pulsars.

Arecibo ObservatoryOfficials at the Chinese Academy of Sciences say the telescope, to be built in a valley in Guizhou Province in the south-west of the country, will cover an area the size of 25 football fields.

It will be ten times more powerful than the current biggest steerable radio dish in the world.

Astronomers have so far discovered 1,760 pulsars – collapsed neutron stars left by exploding supernovae. The new radio telescope, called Fast, is predicted to find 7,000 to 10,000 more a year.

The telescope could also be used to monitor satellites and space debris to aid China’s growing space programme.

The telescope is likely to resemble the famous 305-metre wide Arecibo dish which sits in a valley in Puerto Rico. Ironically, funding for that US observatory is currently under threat.

Photo: Arecibo Observatory.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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