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FAST: A New Eye for the Sky
China is now home to the world's largest single-dish radio telescope
Edited by Lu Yan | Web Exclusive

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, FAST, was completed in early July this year in Pingtang County, southwest China's Guizhou Province. The 250,000-square-meter dish-like telescope is as large as 30 football fields, making it the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world.

 

A 6-cable-driven parallel manipulator is the main control system for the feed cabin of the FAST.

 

The fine driving system directs the receiving platform to the desired orientation and compensates for positioning errors, enabling optimum signal reception by the feed cabin.

 

Dr. Wu Rongyang, the operator in charge of the manipulator made vivid comparisons between the complex machinery and the human eye, describing the feed cabin as the FAST's eyeball while the manipulator operates much like the muscles surrounding an eye. Like these muscles, which change a person's visual focus, the system around the FAST works to shift the telescope's perception and field of vision.

 

With a bigger aperture, FAST is about ten times more sensitive than Germany's 100-meter aperture radio telescope, which was known as the largest fully steerable radio telescope on Earth. FAST is expected to significantly change humankind's understanding of the universe and the search for life on other planets.

 

  

Evolution of the FAST (clockwise): it comprises about 4,450 panels. The first panel is installed on August 2, 2015; Panels are half set up on December 16; Nearly 80 percent of the installation is completed on March 9, 2016; On July 3, 2016, the installation of the final panel marks the completion of the main body of a five-year-long construction project (XINHUA)

 

  

 A 6-cable-driven parallel manipulator operates and the natural tilt of the feed cabin varies accordingly (XINHUA)

 

   

Dr. Wu Rongyang, the person in charge of the parallel manipulator for the FAST, adjusts the position of the telescope's feed cabin on June 30 (XINHUA) 

 

  

Dr. Wu debugs equipment in the command center (XINHUA)

 

Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan 

  

Comments to chenran@bjreview.com  

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