04/07/2021, 16.17
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Beijing to open FAST, the world's largest telescope, to foreigners

Scientists from other countries will begin observations in August. The instrument has a diameter of 500 metres, and can locate an object 13.7 billion light years away. Since January it has discovered 300 pulsars. Most of the data collected will be available to the public.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Chinese authorities have begun accepting requests from foreign scientists to access FAST, its Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, the world's largest telescope.

The National Astronomical Observatory of China will accept applications until 15 May and results will be announced on 20 July. Observations will start in August until July 2022.

Also known as Tianyan (sky eye), FAST was built with Chinese technology. Located in Pingtang County (Guizhou), it has a 500-metre diameter dish with observation aperture of 300 metres covering an area equivalent to 30 football (soccer) fields.

For its construction, Chinese technicians were inspired by the telescope of the Observatory in Arecibo (Puerto Rico), which has a diameter of 305 metres and an observation aperture of 200 metres.

FAST can detect objects 13.7 billion light years away. Since January 2021, it has discovered 300 pulsars and contributed to research about fast radio bursts, i.e. transient radio pulse caused by a high-energy astrophysical process that can last up to a few milliseconds.

The first radio telescope was built in the United States in 1937. FAST was inaugurated in 2016, after five years of construction.

Scientific observation time using FAST will increase to about 5,000 hours in 2021 with about 10 per cent allocated to foreign scientists.

Collected observation data will be held in a storage and archiving service funded by the Chinese government. Most observation data will be available to the public after one year.

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