The Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, currently under construction in Guizhou province, China.

The Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, currently under construction in Guizhou province, China.

Image credit: ChinaFotoPress / Getty Images

An otherworldly visitor nests in rural China

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    Image credit: ChinaFotoPress / Getty Images

    Guizhou province in the southwest of China is famous for its scenic landscape, unspoilt nature and ancient villages. But that's changing. Right now, engineers are constructing the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in the province's Pingtang county. Guizhou was chosen to host the radio telescope precisely because of its landscape. The valley FAST is being built in is exceptionally well shielded from magnetic disruptions, while the ground underneath is both stable enough to hold the structure, and porous enough to drain away water and protect the telescope.

    When completed later this year, FAST will be the largest single-aperture radio telescope in the world, with a diameter of over 1600 feet. For comparison, the current largest -- the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico -- measures 1000 feet across. FAST's dish will be comprised of 4,500 triangular panels, which when combined with an active adjustable reflector, will enable scientists to observe a larger area of space in greater fidelity than any telescope before it.

    The Big Picture is a recurring feature highlighting beautiful images that tell big stories. We explore topics as large as our planet, or as small as a single life, as affected by or seen through the lens of technology.

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