Chinese authorities plan to evacuate 9,110 people from their homes to make way for what will be the world's largest radio telescope, China's state-owned Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday.
The government-funded Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, will be able to detect and receive signals from outer space and help search for extraterrestrial intelligence, according to its official website. Under construction since 2011, it's slated for completion this September and costs 1.2 billion yuan, or about $184 million, Xinhua says.
FAST is being built in the country's southwestern province of Guizhou, a rural mountainous area where millions of inhabitants live in poverty. Provincial authorities say they plan to pay 12,000 yuan ($1,837) to each resident living within a 3.1-mile radius of the site to relocate.
The telescope is meant to function in a "sound electromagnetic environment," per Xinhua, but it's not exactly clear what that means. In Green Bank, West Virginia, home to the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, residents are instructed not to use cell phones, microwaves and other devices that may interfere with the radio frequency the telescope is meant to pick up, according to a CNN report.
Guizhou's government plans to move locals to four settlements by the end of September, the state news agency noted, but did not say when the relocation process would begin or where the residents would be moved.
FAST's main reflector will have a diameter of about 1,640 feet and will consist of cables and panels designed to detect and reflect radio signals from space to a single receiver that will record them.
The size of the telescope's reflector will surpass that of Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, which has a diameter of about 1,000 feet and is currently the world's largest single-aperture radio telescope. FAST will also be able to cover "two to three times more sky area," the telescope's official website said.
In fact, FAST will be so big that "if you fill it with wine, every one of the world's seven billion people could get a share of about five bottles," Li Di, the chief scientist of China's National Astronomical Observatories, told China Daily in November.
China has invested heavily in its space program in recent years. In 2003, it dispatched the Shenzhou V spacecraft to orbit the Earth 14 times, becoming the third country after the U.S. and Russia to successfully send a human into space. China also launched its first space laboratory in 2011 and plans to place a manned space station in orbit in the 2020s.
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