By September, the world’s largest radio telescope will be complete and can start searching space for signs of extraterrestrial life billions of light-years away.
Located in China’s Guizhou Province, the telescope started to cause controversy earlier this week when state news agency Xinhua announced that the project would force more than 9,000 villagers to relocate. The relocations, which will come with about $1,800 in compensation, are to create a 3-mile electromagnetic “quiet zone” to make the telescope’s search for extraterrestrial life easier.
"A radio telescope is like a sensitive ear, listening to tell meaningful radio messages from white noise in the universe,” Nan Rendong, FAST chief scientist, told China.org.cn. “It is like identifying the sound of cicadas in a thunderstorm."
In addition to signs of life, the telescope will also aim to pinpoint and study distant astronomical objects.
Built in a natural depression, the telescope — known as the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) — will be about 1,640 feet in diameter and use 4,450 reflective triangle-shaped panels. Each panel is about 33 feet long.
FAST is so massive that it would take the average person 40 minutes to walk the perimeter of this radio telescope.
The next-largest radio telescope is the 305-meter-wide Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico.
The five-year project is on track to cost about $184 million.