China has declared that it now has the world’s largest spherical radio telescope at 500 meters. According to Xinhua news, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) has been completed at a cost of approximately 180 million dollars and took about five years to complete. The radio telescope, which is expected to become operational in September this year, has a massive reflector comprising of 4,450 panels, which experts say is equivalent in size to 30 football fields.
The radio telescope is expected to be used to search for extraterrestrial life and upgrades and adjustments will be made to it over the next three years. Its focus will be on detecting pulsars, gravitational waves and eventually amino acids, which would confirm life on other planets. The 300 meter wide Arecibo Observatory telescope in Puerto Rico was previously the world’s largest in terms of diameter.
In order to ensure total radio silence within a five-kilometer radius around FAST, over 9,000 people will be moved out of the area. Nestled in a rural area of China’s Guizhou province, FAST was built in an isolated valley, which is important for radio telescopes. The displaced families have been moved to a neighboring province and have given a compensation of 10,000 yuan (roughly USD 1,500), which translates to an average year’s salary in the area.