New Xinjiang observatory will not look for alien life: expert
China's newest, and the world's largest, radio telescope will empower the country's space probes on their missions to the moon and Mars, Chinese experts said on Thursday.
Proposed by the Xinjiang Astronomical Observatory and scheduled to go into service in 2023, the new 100-meter-tall fully steerable single-dish radio telescope will be 110 meters in diameter and weigh about 6,000 tons, the Xinhua News Agency reported last week.
To be built in Qitai county, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the 150 MHz-115 GHz telescope will cover three-quarters of the sky and assist research into gravitational waves, black holes and dark matter, according to a report on the Qitai government website.
The report was released December 27, 2017 to solicit public opinion on the telescope's environmental and social risks, as well as countermeasures.
After completion, "it will lay the foundations for China's Mars probe in 2020 and later probe projects to Jupiter," Jiao Weixin, a space science professor at Peking University, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Xinjiang astronomers have been mulling massive telescopes for more than seven years, China's Lunar Exploration Project Chief Scientist Ouyang Ziyuan told the Global Times on Thursday.
"Once operational, it will enhance the country's ability to monitor the speed, location and orbit of space probes on journeys to the moon or Mars," he said.
China would not be deploying the new telescope to search for extraterrestrial life, he said, as "there is no established standard for alien signals in the first place."
The site in Shihezi of Qitai county is a sparsely populated foothill of the Tianshan Mountains in northeast Xinjiang, said the Qitai government report.
The telescope enjoys a broad horizon without tall buildings, plus the arid climate shields it from electromagnetic noise and enables it to receive purer signals, Ouyang said.
In 2016, the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope, went into service in Southwest China's Guizhou Province.
Unlike Guizhou's, the telescope in Xinjiang is fully steerable and can capture specific signals with a better focus, Ouyang noted.
China's largest optical telescope, at 12 meters, is expected to be built in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The project is included in China's large sci-tech infrastructure plan for 2016 to 2020.