Chinese scientists are in the process of constructing the world’s biggest radio telescope in an attempt to search for alien life.
The radio telescope will be the most effective of its kind and it’s hoped that it will be able to pick up weak signals from outer space, and possibly communication from other intelligent life forms.
The construction of the radio telescope, named the Five- hundred- meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), began in July and is expected to be finished in 2016, replacing Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory as the world’s largest radio telescope. The reflector dish of the telescope is set to be 500 meters in diameter which is an improvement on the Arecibo Observatory telescope. The wider the reflector dish, the more effective the telescope will be at picking up weaker messages.
Once the construction of the telescope has been completed, it will be taken to China’s Guizhou province where it will be sunken into a natural bowl- shaped valley, suspended slightly above ground level by pillars and cables. The cables will be connected to an operator which will allow scientists to move the reflector dish in different directions, enabling the telescope to pick up signals from different areas of space. The reason for taking the telescope to this remote location is to minimise interference from Earth-generated radio signals.
No radio telescope on earth has ever picked up a signal from an alien civilisation so the construction of the world’s largest telescope will give scientists hope of breaking new ground in communication with alien life forms. However, radio telescopes are not solely used to pick up signals from extraterrestrial life. They have also proven to be vital in the discovery of new planets and comets.
China are one of the countries currently leading the way in space exploration, despite only beginning in the 1990s. This telescope will represent another step forward in space exploration for Chinese scientists who will now be able to use their own equipment and rely on their own data rather than using information from other telescopes.
The director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society, Wu Xiangping, has said: “Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages. It will help us to search for intelligent life outside the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe.”