The iconic Arecibo radio telescope had another cable snap recently, resulting in the complete collapse and destruction of the telescope. It was the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, but with its demise, China now lays claim to that title. The Chinese Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) is now the largest and last massive single-dish radio telescope globally.
The Chinese telescope has a 500-meter Aperture and was completed in 2016. It’s located in the Guizhou providence of Southwest China and cost $171 million to build. Construction lasted about five years. Its size allows it to detect faint radio-waves from pulsars and material in galaxies at vast distances.
Interestingly, only 300 of its 500-meter diameter can be used at any one time. The massive radio telescope will be used for important missions over the next ten years. Experts say the telescope will be an important part of studying the origins of supermassive black holes and identifying faint radio waves to understand the characteristics of planets outside our solar system.
FAST won’t be able to replace the Arecibo Observatory in all aspects of functionality. Arecibo was notable for being able to transmit signals and receive the reflections from planets. FAST is unable to perform that function on its own. That capability allowed Arecibo to be able to monitor near-Earth asteroids. Monitoring of near-Earth asteroids is essential because some could pose a potential for harm to the Earth.
China has also announced the FAST facility will be open to use by foreign scientists starting next year. It remains to be seen if the international scientific community takes up the offer of using FAST. There are concerns about Chinese spying from many governments of the world.