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Looking for some off the beaten path tourist destination in China? How about checking out the world's largest alien finder?
After going into operation last September, China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) is now officially open to the public for free, though there's a strict limit of just 2,000 visitors per day.
When visiting the world's most sensitive radio telescope, tourists will need to take precautions. In order to prevent interference, visitors are required to deposit all their electronic doodads before entering the observation deck.
The FAST was finally completed in rural, mountainous Guizhou province last July. A few months later, it started its quest to enhance humankind's understanding of the origin of the universe, find extraterrestrial life, and maybe even earn China a Nobel Prize.
The 500-meter-wide dish is roughly the size of 30 football fields and dwarfs that of the 305-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The larger the dish, the better the telescope can pick up weak signals from galaxies far, far away, state media has boasted that FAST can reach 11 billion light-years into space and could double the number of pulsars known to humans within a year of operation.
Still, officials have cautioned not to expect anything great from the FAST for at least a few years, while scientists run tests and fix bugs associated with the complex equipment.
The FAST project was introduced in 2007 and construction began in 2011. By July 2015, it was time to install the 4,450 reflective panels. In total, the whole thing cost 1.2 billion yuan. Here's the incredible transition from mountainous wilderness to giant space telescope:
In order to make all this possible, the Guizhou government had to relocate nearly 10,000 residents living within a 3.1-mile radius of the telescope. The relocation plan became controversial because of its human cost, as well as the meager compensation offered to residents -- 12,000 yuan each, which is barely half the annual salary in China. Locals have also complained that the new houses the government has built for them nearby are poorly-made.
Additionally, last September a new regulation went into effect, requiring radio silence within a 10-kilometer radius of the facility. It also prohibits construction, hunting, logging and land reclamation in the immediate area, threatening a 100,000 yuan fine. Picture taking is apparently alright though.