China's spherical radio telescope to help mankind better probe universe

Aug 7, 2015 According to scientists, a 500-meter aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) currently being built in southwest China’s Guizhou Province has been earmarked as a giant leap in mankind’s attempt to better probe the universe.

The scientists explained that just like the common optical telescopes, the radio telescopes will observe the universe by electromagnetic radiation. It will however differ from the optical telescopes by its ability to detect radio waves from the universe.

Li Di, deputy chief engineer of aperture spherical telescope, while outlining the uniqueness of the telescope said:

“The electromagnetic spectrum that the universe emits is very wide and covers a large amount of information, which can’t be detected by optical telescopes. Some special matters exist in the radio radiation. Its radio signals are much stronger than optical ones as the former have a stronger penetrability. So radio telescope is very suitable for probing universe,”

When completed in 2016, the telescope will be the world’s largest single-aperture spherical telescope, overtaking Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, which is 300 meters in diameter.

Sensitivity is the most important index parameter for a radio telescope. The higher the sensitivity, the better the weak radio signals will be detected. To increase the sensitivity, the radio telescope’s diameters are required to be extended.

“You can compare the light field to the photon. Image the raindrops fall in a certain direction. So the larger the area is, the more photons can it collect in every time unit. So our largest single antenna has the highest lighting rate than any others in the world. So the celestial area it covers, together with our basic scientific and search ability, has been improved largely,” said Li.

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