Tourists are queuing up to visit a massive telescope - billed as the world's biggest alien finder - after it was opened to the public.

People are flocking to check out China's 500-metre (1,640-foot) Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) which became operational last September.

Entry to the site of the world's most sensitive radio telescope is free but the number of visitors is being strictly limited to just 2,000 per day.

They are queuing up to take selfies in front of the huge dish which is the size of 30 football pitches and dwarfs the 305-metre (1,000-foot) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

But they are having to use old-fashioned cameras to take their souvenir pictures as they have to leave their electronic gadgets behind to prevent interference before entering the observation deck.

FAST, which is located in south-western China's rural, mountainous Guizhou province, aims to enhance humankind's understanding of the origin of the universe and search for extraterrestrial life.

The huge size of the telescope means that it can pick up weak signals from galaxies far, far away.

Chinese 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.

But officials are warning people not to expect too much for at least a few years, while scientists run tests and fix bugs associated with the complex equipment.

The FAST project was launched in 2007 and construction began in 2011. It features 4,450 reflective panels and cost 1.2 billion RMB (142 million GBP) to build.

Controversially, more than 10,000 people living within a 3.1-mile radius of the telescope had to be relocated to make way for it and were offered just 12,000 RMB (1,431 GBP) compensation each.

And a new law was introduced last September requiring radio silence within 10 kilometres of the telescope and banning all building work, hunting, logging and land reclamation near the site. Offenders face a 100,000-RMB (17,800-GBP) fine.


Author: Gabriel Zamfir

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