China finishes world's largest radio telescope to search for alien life

Allen Cone
Installation was completed on the world's largest radio telescope on Sunday morning in Pingtang, China. Photo by
Installation was completed on the world's largest radio telescope on Sunday morning in Pingtang, China. Photo by

GUIYANG, China, July 3 (UPI) -- China finished constructing the world's largest radio telescope to hunt for signs of alien life in deep space.

The Five-hundred-meter Single-Aperture Radio Telescope, or FAST, contains 4,450 reflector panels with a diameter of 500 yards and is 30 football fields, according to the Xinhua news agency.


About 300 people witnessed the installation Saturday of the last triangular-shaped panel to the reflector in Pingtang County of the southwestern province of Guizhou.

The project was first conceived in 1994 and installation began in March 2011 with a cost of $105 million. It finished two months ahead of schedule.

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A total of 9,110 residents were relocated in 2009 to four settlements at the government's expense "to create a sound electromagnetic wave environment," Xinhua reported citing provincial officials. They were also were given $1,800 in compensation. Ethnic minority households facing housing difficulties were given another $1,500.

No residents will live within 3 miles of the telescope. Three hills around the depression formed an equilateral triangle.

The previous largest single aperture telescope in the world was at Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory with a diameter of 328 yards.

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"As the world's largest single aperture telescope located at an extremely radio-quiet site, its scientific impact on astronomy will be extraordinary, and it will certainly revolutionize other areas of the natural sciences," said Nan Rendong, chief scientist with the FAST Project, told

FAST will enable astronomers survey neutral hydrogen in distant galaxies and detect faint pulsars, which are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation, researchers said.

The project potentially can search for more strange objects to better understand the origin of the universe and boost the global hunt for extraterrestrial life, said Zheng Xiaonian, deputy head of the National Astronomical Observation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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Li Di, an NAO researcher, said in two or three years scientists may find amino acids, the foundation block of life.


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