The largest radio telescope in the world was opened for business on Sunday in a mountainous region of southwest China’s Guizhou Province, according to China’s official Xinhua News.
FAST is believed to be the world’s most sensitive radio telescope. Engineers have said it is so sensitive it could capture the signal of a cell phone being used on the moon.
In addition to observing pulsars, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) will also explore interstellar molecules and interstellar communication signals.
It is 195 meters wider than the second largest telescope of its kind, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
The 1.2-billion-yuan (180 million U.S. dollars) project started in 2011, 17 years after it was proposed by Chinese astronomers.
The installation of the telescope’s main structure, comprised of a 4,450-panel reflector and as large as 30 football pitches, was finished in early July.
“(The telescope) will certainly generate enthusiasm, bring people into science, and make China important in the world of science,” Joseph Taylor, a Nobel Prize-winning astronomer at Princeton University, told Xinhua.
The telescope is expected to discover twice the number of pulsars as are currently known and it is highly likely to make breakthroughs in the study of gravitational waves and general relativity theory, said Sun Caihong, its deputy chief technologist.
In the first two or three years after its completion, the telescope will undergo further adjustment, and during that period Chinese scientists will use it for early stage research. After that, it will be open to scientists worldwide, according to Xinhua.