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Inside FAST, soon to be the world’s biggest and baddest radio telescope

June 22, 2011

Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) (credit: Rendong Nan et al.)

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), under construction in Guizhou Province in southern China, will be able to see more than three times farther into space and survey the skies ten times faster than Arecibo when it goes online in 2016.

The dish itself will focus the radio signals, using a subset of the dish’s 4,400 triangular aluminum panels to form a roughly 1,000-foot parabolic mirror — nearly the size of the entire Arecibo dish — within the larger bowl. This dish-within-a-dish can be formed anywhere across the larger bowl, allowing FAST to examine more of the sky.

The dish will be capable of collecting and studying signals from 19 sky regions simultaneously, compared to Arecibo’s seven. FAST should be able to detect extraplanetary transmissions at distances of greater than 1,000 light years.

Ref.: Rendong Nan et al., “The Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) Project,” ArXiv, May 20, 2011,

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