China has recently opened the world’s largest radio telescope to foreign scientists after the failure of the famous Arecibo Observatory, which is in Puerto Rico. The 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the largest radio telescope globally, stands in Pingtang, which is in Guizhou province, exceeding the Arecibo Observatory that stood as the biggest in the world for fifty-three years until the FAST construction was finished in 2016. Arecibo’s radio telescope failed in November after two cable problems earlier this year, closing the observatory down permanently. Today, FAST is opening the doors to international astronomers.

“Our scientific panel focuses on making FAST increasingly open to the international community,” Wang Qiming, who is in charge of operations and construction center of FAST, informed AFP when he paid a visit to this telescope. According to the study, China will welcome applications this year (2021) from international scientists seeking to use the tool for their study. FAST is bigger than the destroyed Arecibo telescope and 3 times more responsive with its huge 500 meters (1,600-foot) diameter dish.

FAST, which started full operations in January 2020, is enclosed by a 5-kilometer (3-mile) ‘radio silence’ region where computers and mobile phones are not permitted. “We gained a lot of inspiration from the [Arecibo’s] design, which we gradually enhanced to build our telescope,” stated Qiming. To detect electromagnetic signals from radio sources in the universe, such as galaxies, stars, as well as black holes, radio telescopes such as FAST use radio receivers and antennas. To see what details could bounce back, these devices may transmit radio signals and mirror radio light from the solar system’s entities.

To discover the universe and examine alien planets, researchers will use FAST to decide whether or not researchers rest within the host star in “goldilocks zone” and check for alien life. Scientists, who work on the quest for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, notably sent out an interstellar radio message to globular cluster M13 in Arecibo in 1974 with the expectation of obtaining evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial existence. Scientific communicator and Astronomer Carl Sagan co-authored the post, leading to promote Arecibo as well as radio astronomy in general.

Enhancements in scientific research have been fast, noted Denis Simon, a Chinese science policy analyst, adding that just a few years ago, “China was regarded as an innovation laggard.” “More discretion, as well as intellectual freedom, was given to the engineering and scientific community to discover different ideas and take huge challenges in the research setting,” he said. “The risk-averse culture, which was once prevalent, has drawn attention to a more entrepreneurship development.” For new generations of engineers and scientists, this has involved curriculum improvements, he added.

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