20 February, 2016

Mass Relocation For Chinese Villagers, For The World's Largest Telescope!

More than 9,000 Chinese villagers are leaving their homes to make way for aliens — or for the possible echoes of them, at least.

It is not a colonization plan from outer space. The Chinese government is relocating the villagers as it finishes building the world’s biggest radio telescope, one of whose purposes is to detect signs of extraterrestrial life.
The telescope will be 500 meters, or 1,640 feet, in diameter, making it by far the largest instrument of its kind in the world. It is called FAST, short for 500-meter aperture spherical telescope, and will cost an estimated 1.2 billion renminbi, or $184 million, to erect. The government hopes to complete it by September.

The mass relocation was announced on Tuesday in a report by Xinhua, the state news agency. The report said officials were moving 2,029 families, a total of 9,110 people, who live within about three miles of the telescope in the area of Pingtang and Luodian Counties in the southwestern province of Guizhou. Depopulating the area will create “a sound electromagnetic wave environment” for the telescope, Xinhua said.

Officials plan to give each person the equivalent of $1,800 for housing compensation, the report said. Guizhou is one of China’s poorest provinces.

Forced relocations for large projects are common across China, and so are complaints about them and about the amount of compensation offered. The Three Gorges Dam displaced more than one million people along the Yangtze River, for example, and the middle route of the gargantuan South-North Water Diversion Project has resulted in the relocation of 350,000 people to make way for a series of canals.

The Chinese government has announced ambitious plans for its space program, at a time when the American one’s direction is uncertain. China aims to put an astronaut on the moon and a space station in orbit. The FAST project is another important element in the larger plan.

Some official Chinese news reports about the project have emphasized the search for alien life, but the telescope’s main scientific work will be somewhat less romantic, gathering large amounts of new data on a wide range of physical phenomena in space including pulsars, galaxies, black holes and gas clouds.

The telescope is being built in a wide depression among karst hills. The site is far from any large city, and ideal for picking up radio transmissions from the sky, the Xinhua report said. Scientists began looking for a suitable site for the project in 1994.

If the truth is out there, some Chinese scientists are confident that the giant telescope will find it. For decades, professional and amateur scientists have combed the data gathered by the largest currently operational radio telescope in the world, the 53-year-old Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, hoping to find traces of intelligent life that, like mankind, may be advertising its existence to the universe through radio emissions. But they have yet to find any sign.

“With a larger signal receiving area and more flexibility, FAST will be able to scan two times more sky area than Arecibo, with three to five times higher sensitivity,” Li Di, a chief scientist with the National Astronomical Observatories under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told China Daily last year.

The new telescope should be able to pick up all kinds of radio signals more clearly from sources much farther away than can the Arecibo dish, which is 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) in diameter.

In November, scientists successfully tested the new telescope’s “retina,” which weighs 33 tons and is suspended 460 to 525 feet above the reflector dish, which was half-finished at the time, China Daily reported.

The telescope is made up of 4,500 mostly triangular panels that measure about 36 feet on a side, the report said, which together create an immense parabolic dish. Scientists will be able to adjust the panels’ positions to alter the shape of the dish and reflect radio signals from distant parts of the universe to a single focal point for detection and study.

Mr. Li told China Daily that engineers were aiming to install all the panels by June and complete debugging the antenna by September.

“Ultimately, exploring the unknown is the nature of mankind,” he said, adding that it was “as visceral as feeding and clothing ourselves.”

“It drives us to a greater future,” he said.

China Enters The Search For ET With The Largest Telescope Ever Built! | The Xenologist



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