FAST has been partially operational since 2016, but now it is ready to operate fully and according to its main objective: to study neutron stars.
Built on a natural depression in southwest China, the world’s largest telescope opened this month, now fully operational. Its name is FAST and was nicknamed Tianyan, which means “Eye of the sky”. Some facilities have been in operation since 2016, but the building has only been fully completed now.
Among other things, the main objective of the construction is to study pulsars – neutron stars that, thanks to their intense magnetic field, transform rotational energy into electromagnetic energy. FAST already discovered two stars in 2017.
Many discoveries will be made
According to Xinhua, the Chinese government’s official news agency, all FAST technical indicators are reaching or exceeding planned levels. In addition to being a powerful radio telescope, scientists believe it will make great discoveries, especially in the first two years. The entire project cost about $ 170 million.
It will take 10 years to analyze the data
Over five years, FAST will also conduct two surveys in the sky, and it will take another ten years to analyze all the data collected. The research will occupy about half the observation time of the telescope, but there will be space for studies to search for exoplanets with magnetic fields.
FAST is more flexible than the Arecibo Radio Telescope
The construction replaced the largest radio telescope in the world, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Both telescopes are large satellite dishes that use only part of their area at a time. FAST is not only bigger, but it is also operated differently, in addition to being more flexible because it can change the shape of its surface.
It consists of almost 4500 individual panels, in addition to 2200 winches at the bottom, which can shape the surface for different parts of the sky.
China is looking for a chief scientist
Despite the inauguration, China is still looking for a chief scientist to command the telescope. According to some reports, there is a reluctance among qualified people who already work at the agency due to fears of the Chinese authoritarian approach. The country then tries to recruit people from other countries willing to take the job.