SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China officially opened operations on the world's largest radio telescope on Saturday, which will be used for space research and will help search for extraterrestrial life, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The 500-meter Spherical Aperture Telescope, or FAST, is the size of 30 soccer fields and was excavated on a mountain in southwestern Guizhou province. It is also known by the name "Sky Eye" in China.
Xinhua said the telescope had received national approval to start operations. Construction was completed in 2016 and has been undergoing debugging and testing in subsequent years.
FAST chief engineer Jiang Peng told Xinhua that the telescope's test operations were so far reliable and stable and that its sensitivity was more than 2.5 times that of the world's second largest telescope.
The project has also gained some valuable scientific data over that time and should help drive advances in areas such as low-frequency gravitational wave detection and interstellar molecules over the next three to five years, Xinhua said.
The advance of China's space program is a priority for Beijing, and China has set a goal to reach Russia and the United States and become a major space power by 2030.
Beijing plans to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.
Reporting by Brenda Goh and Luoyan Liu; Edition by Jacqueline Wong
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