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Constructing the world's largest radio telescope

Feb 23, 2017, 20:28 PM by Carli Barnes

The Chinese super telescope FAST is up and running; soon it will bear fruits from peeking into deep space - further than we've seen before.

The massive radio telescope claims the title of the world's largest, around the size of 30 football fields. Nestled high in the mountains of southwest China, the telescope was a mammoth undertaking, not least of all from a safety and construction perspective

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China's 500m FAST radio telescope opens today to search for astronomical phenomena inc. signs of extraterrestrial life. 

 
 

World's largest radio telescope

With an aperture of 500m, the FAST telescope (Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope) is the largest in the world - outclassing the previous record holder, the Arecibo in Puerto Rico, which sits at 300m. Built to observe pulsars and other far flung objects at the corners of the galaxy, the FAST telescope  successfully observed a pulsar at a distance of 1,351 light -years away, according to Geek.com.

Built high in remote mountains to avoid interference from civilisation and radio waves, the telescope's construction took more than 5 years to complete, according to Sky and Telescope. This raises the question: How did workers access such an inaccessible location? An even bigger question: How do maintenance workers navigate the rim of a 70,000m 2 dish now that it's up and running? 

How do maintenance workers navigate the rim of a 70,000m-square dish?

If the telescope was built in Australia, perhaps workers would be using access systems and walkways built with help from Webforge. Given the nature of such projects and the need to be in remote locations, they need materials that can withstand the elements and provide strength and support. Considering the scientific requirements of a telescope, where precise measurements are key and interfering agents can spell disaster, materials that have low reactivity to things like conductivity or magnetic induction might prove critical.

If that's the case, Webforge's Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) can do the job. It's also slip-resistant, essential when working on telescopes in the elements high above the ground.

China continually expanding its observation capabilities

China is by no means resting on its laurels. Although we wont see a radio telescope of similar scale for at least a decade, claims FAST Director Yan Jun speaking to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Looking to beat another world record, China plans to build the highest altitude gravitation wave telescopes in Tibet, reports the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Construction is already underway, 5,250m above sea level. The aim? To hunt for primordial gravitational waves.

Whatever the application, get in touch with the team at Webforge to see how our products can meet your construction needs.

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