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China plans to build the world’s biggest steerable telescope

29 January 2018 3

China has announced plans to build the world’s largest steerable radio telescope called the Xinjiang Qitai 110-meter Radio Telescope (QTT). The new telescope could give a huge boost to the search for gravitational waves, dark matter, and alien intelligence. Currently, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) located in Green Bank, West Virginia is the largest steerable radio telescope.

China already has the world’s largest radio telescope called the FAST, or Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope. FAST has been operational since 2016 and was made in a natural depression in the landscape which is similar to the famous Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico. FAST has an “active surface” design, where metal panels on the surface can be tilted to change the focus to different areas of the sky. QTT will be built in the Xinjiang autonomous region of northwest China.

“The QTT’s scientific mission is ambitious,” said Doug Vakoch, president of METI International, an organization that looks to organize the efforts of both searching for and sending out messages to whatever life might be out in the universe. “Recent history shows us that when a radio telescope with radically enhanced characteristics comes online, we make remarkable discoveries.”

“FAST’s shape-shifting surface can point to a limited extent, but it’s restricted to about 40 degrees of zenith — the point in the celestial sphere that is directly overhead,” Vakoch explained to Seeker. “In contrast, the QTT should be able to pinpoint stars located in three-quarters of the night sky. That means the QTT can examine parts of the heavens that will be forever out of the view of FAST.”

“The QTT will be only slightly larger, with a diameter of 110 meters in all directions,” Vakoch said. “But we all know how a little added width to a pizza can make a big difference in the number of slices we get from it. So, too, with radio telescopes: A few additional meters of dish size can nudge up your sensitivity, letting you observe fainter astronomical objects.”



China plans to build the world’s biggest steerable telescope
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