The world’s largest filled-aperture radio telescope can now be visited by tourists for the first time. The Five hundred metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), located in southwestern China in Guizhou province, was designed primarily to search for radio waves from galaxies and stars, and interstellar communications – to find signs of alien life.
Although FAST began trial operations in September 2016, it opened for the first time to tourists this week. A capped limit of 2000 visitors are admitted to facility per day, and admission fees have been waived initially. A visit offers the chance to learn more about what the telescope does and how it searches for alien life at the astronomical museum located inside. There is also a viewing platform where visitors can get a bird’s eye view of the gigantic telescope, which is 500 metres in diameter – about the size of 30 football fields.
FAST is located in a rural mountainous part of Guizhou, and the surrounding area has been designated as a scenic zone. A shuttle bus and museum entry are still ticketed at ¥50 (US$7.20) each, though the telescope itself is free.
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