China's FAST telescope okays 6,400 observation hours for global scientists

Beijing, July 28 (IANS) China’s Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), the world’s largest single-dish and most sensitive radio telescope, approved nearly 6,400 hours of observation for scientists from 16 countries, the media reported on Friday.

Applications from the 16 countries mainly involve fast radio bursts observation, pulsars observation and neutral hydrogen survey, Xinhua news agency reported.

Dubbed the “China Sky Eye,” the telescope is located in a deep and round karst depression in southwest China’s Guizhou Province. It has a reception area equal to 30 standard football fields.

FAST started formal operation in January 2020 and officially opened to the world on March 31, 2021.

Its operation and maintenance team has been working to further improve its observation efficiency and meet the growing demand from the international astronomical community.

The gigantic telescope has also adopted intelligent maintenance robots, the report said.

According to Jiang Peng, chief engineer of the telescope, the five intelligent robot systems and platforms for maintenance, which have passed the acceptance test, will help increase the time of observation by 30 days per year.

The intelligent robots will be mainly used in testing of the supporting cables and pulleys of FAST’s feed, the automatic maintenance of its actuators and laser targets on the reflector, the disassembling and installation of feed receivers, the monitoring of radio interference, and the all-weather measurement of its 30-tonne feed cabin.

Peng said the intelligent robots will help safeguard the telescope’s operation, increasing its observation duration and efficiency while promoting more scientific results.

“The intelligent robots are expected to add about 30 days to the telescope’s observation period annually,” Jiang was quoted as saying.

–IANS

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