- China’s Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) is the largest and last remaining giant, single-dish telescope after Arecibo’s collapse.
- As China’s moon mission advances, experts say the via its resolution and sensitivity, the FAST telescope will help produce critical research over the next decades.
- Opened in 2016, in November, Chinese state media reported that FAST could welcome foreign scientists in 2021.
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After tragedy struck the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, the scientific community mourned the loss of an astronomical landmark.
There is now only one last remaining giant, single-dish, radio telescope in the world: China’s 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST).
Completed in 2016 and located in the Guizhou province of southwest China, the observatory cost $171 million and took about half a decade to build. Its sheer size allows it to detect faint radio-waves from pulsars and materials in galaxies far away; 300 of its 500-meter diameter can be used at any one time.
Experts say that in the next decade, FAST is expected to shine in terms of studying the origins of supermassive black holes or identifying faint radio waves to understand the characteristics of planets outside the solar system.
In November, Chinese state media reported that in 2021, the FAST facility would become open to use for foreign scientists.
The National Astronomical Observatory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which oversees FAST, did not immediately respond to comment.
There were some functions that Arecibo’s telescope could do that FAST can’t, however.
“For observation within the solar system, Arecibo was able to transmit signals and receive their reflections from planets, a function that FAST isn’t able to complete on its own. The feature allowed Arecibo to facilitate monitoring of near-Earth asteroids, which is important in defending the Earth from space threats,” Liu Boyang, a researcher in radio astronomy at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, University of Western Australia, told the South China Morning Post.
As Business Insider reported earlier in the week, China has made significant strides within the space race as the US has suffered a setback.
China’s Chang’e-5 probe landed on the moon this week, collected lunar samples and the samples have made it back to its orbiter, which will start the process of a weeks-long journey back to earth to deliver the samples. Today, Chinese state media and NASA shared images of China planting its flag on the moon.