The iconic Arecibo radio telescope recently had another broken cable, which resulted in the complete collapse and destruction of the telescope. It was the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world, but with its demise, China now claims that title. The Chinese Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) is now the largest and latest single parabola radio telescope in the world.
The Chinese telescope has an aperture of 500 meters and was completed in 2016. It is located in Guizhou Providence in southwestern China and cost $ 171 million to build. Construction took about five years. Its size allows it to detect faint radio waves from pulsars and material in galaxies at great distances.
Interestingly, only 300 of its 500 meters in diameter can be used at any one time. The huge 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 cannot replace the Arecibo Observatory in all aspects of functionality. Arecibo was known to be able to transmit signals and receive reflections from planets. FAST is unable to perform that function by itself. This ability allowed Arecibo to be able to monitor asteroids near Earth. Monitoring of near-Earth asteroids is essential because some may pose a potential danger to Earth.
China also announced that the FAST facility will be open for use by foreign scientists starting next year. It remains to be seen whether the international scientific community will accept the offer to use FAST. There are concerns about Chinese espionage by many governments around the world.