Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope
|Location(s)||Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, China|
|Wavelength||electromagnetic spectrum: (10 cm to 4.3 m)|
|Telescope style||spherical reflector|
|Diameter||500 metres (1,600 ft)|
|Collecting area||196,000 square meters (2,110,000 sq ft)|
The Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST; Chinese: 五百米口径球面射电望远镜) is a radio telescope under construction located in a natural basin (大窝凼洼地), in Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, southwest China.
Construction on the FAST project began in 2011 and is scheduled for completion by September 2016. It will be the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope and three times more sensitive than the Arecibo Observatory. It will have a cost of 700 million yuan (around 110 million US dollars at the time).
The telescope was first proposed in 1994. The project was approved by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) in In July 2007. On December 26, 2008, a foundation laying ceremony was held on the construction site. Construction started in March 2011, and is scheduled for completion in 2016.
It will have 4600 triangular panels and be similar in design to the Arecibo Observatory, utilizing a natural hollow (karst) to provide support for the telescope dish. As the name suggests, it will have a diameter of 500 metres (1,600 ft). Unlike Arecibo, which has a fixed spherical curvature, FAST will use an active surface that adjusts to create parabolas in different directions, with an effective dish size of 300 m. This means that it will not be confined to pointing directly upwards, but capable of covering the sky within 40° from the zenith, compared to Arecibo's 20° range. Its working frequency will be 70 MHz to 3.0 GHz, with a pointing precision of 4 arcseconds.
The Karst depression, used as the site, is large enough to host the 500 meter telescope and deep enough to allow a zenith angle of 40°. The active main reflector will correct for spherical aberration on the ground to achieve a full polarization and a wide band without involving complex feed systems. Furthermore, the light-weight feed cabin —suspended 140 m above the reflector— will be driven by cables and servomechanisms in addition to a parallel robot as a secondary adjustable system to move with high precision.
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