China Is Building The World’s Largest Radio Telescope, But Why?

MaoNo / Pixabay

Officials in Beijing are intent on developing China’s space program, and construction of the biggest radio telescope in the world is one way to do so.

The huge dish, which is found in the mountainous terrain of southwest China’s Guizhou Province, is designed to detect sounds from outer space. It is the first radio telescope to be built in China, and will allow the Chinese space program to collect data independently, writes Kelsey Warner for The Christian Science Monitor.

China’s space program developing fast

The Xinhua news agency reports that Wu Xiangping, director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society, said Chinese scientists have long relied on data collected by space programs from around the world, which impeded their progress.

With a perimeter of approximately one mile, the dish will be the largest radio telescope in the world. Its isolated position, without a town within three miles, makes it a great spot for minimizing sound interference.

“Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages. It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe,” Mr. Wu said.

Other signs of Beijing’s commitment to its space program were evident two months ago, when officials announced plans to make the first landing on the far side of the moon. It is thought that the mission may be completed by 2020.

Beijing has also declared an interest in becoming part of the International Space Station project. China is banned from ISS programs due to a 2011 law passed by U.S. Congress, which prevents official American contact with China’s space programs due to national security concerns.

Arecibo Observatory loses title of most powerful radio telescope

The title of the most powerful radio telescope is currently held by the U.S.-run Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. However China’s new addition, known as FAST, will reportedly steal that title at some point in 2016.

On Thursday, work began to assemble the telescope’s reflector, which measures 300 feet in diameter and is made of 4,450 panels. To give you a better idea of the scale of the reflector, each panel is an equilateral triangle with sides approximately 36 feet in length.

Xinhua reports that the dish will be suspended from thousands of steel pillars and cables, which hold it in position above the ground. Passages below the dish will enable easy maintenance, while visitors will be able to observe the telescope from a platform on a hill close to the site.

Incredible capabilities could aid search for alien life

Chief engineer Zheng Yuangpeng claims that the panels can be moved to an accuracy of 1mm. According to Nan Rendong, chief scientist of the FAST project with the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that a larger dish is able to receive weaker messages from outer space.

“A radio telescope is like a sensitive ear, listening to tell meaningful radio messages from white noise in the universe. It is like identifying the sound of cicadas in a thunderstorm,” he said.

The powerful new telescope could help scientists in the search for extraterrestrial life. As humans learn more about space, it is becoming stranger and stranger that we have not found signs of life in the Universe. Perhaps China’s new telescope could lead to a breakthrough in that search and in other fields.

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About the Author

Brendan Byrne
While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at

17 Comments on "China Is Building The World’s Largest Radio Telescope, But Why?"

  1. muricanos have no control, they can’t even fly astronauts to ISS, rely on Russia.

  2. muricano looser.

  3. moronican ?

  4. they want to own the whole univer soon:))

  5. disqus_0Vq9ooAL56 | Jul 27, 2015, 4:27 pm at 4:27 pm |

    This is another great advancement for humanity in our search for ET!!!

  6. They should just rename it to American Space Station A.S.S. seeing how much control America has over it.

  7. Oh how silly of you, China will next announce that the entire Universe belongs to them, didn’t you know that?

  8. It should be called America’s Space Station A.S.S. seeing how much America has control over it.

  9. why? of course cows and dung can not understand it is for searching any foul plays from cow boys states

  10. Scott! This is the only way to send a clear message to Americans & tell them don’t be a busy body and get into other people business & messing up the World.

  11. Ha….ha…..ha…..A big American Losser answer! We have to get use to use ,this is Americanlosers style!

  12. Now China wants to steal ET technology ! a pirate is as a pirate does.

  13. They have problem with Russia but only Russia can provide rides to the ISS. Space-X rockets are OK for cargoes but no astronauts would want to ride in those yet.

  14. The author keeps saying “sound”. “to detect sounds from outer space.”, “a great spot for minimizing sound interference.”. No, there is no sound from outer space. Sound does not travel outside of the atmosphere. These telescopes receive radio waves.

  15. China is building a biggest stocks crashed itself and still claimed ‘ as usual the way we R ‘ . Amazing

  16. China is banned from ISS programs due to a 2011 law passed

    by U.S. Congress, which prevents official American contact with China’s space
    programs due to national security

    Nonetheless! They have no problem with Russia as a member…
    How can you ban a country such as China from ISS? Isn’t it international?

  17. They don’t want to listen…they want to transmit messages. To create trade agreements with different alien species, much like America did back in the 1980s-90s. Yes, I have used a 35 meter radio telescope to send a message into space asking for a UFO sighting…less than 24 hours later, a professor here in Taiwan records a close up UFO over the road as she goes to work. Sending messages work. I got documentation on that. SCW

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