As I said that the Chinese invented the telescope in the Sung Dynasty. As of this technology, the table turned to the West since the industrial revolution. But not the tables have turned back to China.
On December 2008, China has already begun building the worlds largest radio telescope. It is a Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in a remote southwest region on Friday.
The dish-like telescope, as large as 30 football fields, will stand in a region of typical Karst depressions in Guizhou Province when it's done in 2013.
Karst depressions are usually located in regions plentiful in limestone and dolomite, where groundwater has enlarged openings to form a subsurface drainage system.
The facility will greatly improve China's capacity for astronomical observation, according to the National Astronomical Observatory (NAO), the major developer of the program.
FAST's main spherical reflector will be composed of 4,600 panels. Its observation sensitivity will be 10 times more powerful than the 100-m aperture steerable radio telescope in Germany. Its overall capacity will be 10 times larger than what is now the world's largest (300 m) Arecibo radio telescope developed by the United States, according to Nan Rendong, the chief scientist of the project and an NAO researcher.
The project, costing more than 700 million yuan (102.3 million U.S. dollars), will allow international astronomers and scientists to discover more of the secrets of the universe based on cutting-edge technologies, said Zhang Haiyan, an NAO official in charge of construction.
Scientists have so far observed only 1,760 pulsars, which are strongly magnetized spinning cores of dead stars. With the help of FAST, they could find as many as 7,000 to 10,000 within a year, Nan said.
Pulsars have allowed scientists to make several major discoveries, such as confirmation of the existence of gravitational radiation as predicted by the theory of general relativity.
FAST could also be a highly sensitive passive radar to monitor satellites and space debris, which would be greatly helpful for China's ambitious space program.
The telescope could also help to look for other civilizations by detecting and studying communication signals in the universe.
Chinese scientists and officials selected Dawodang, Pingtang County as the site, where a Karst valley will match the shape of the huge bowl-like astronomical instrument.
The sparsely populated, underdeveloped region will provide a quiet environment to ensure the electromagnetic waves, the crucial requirement of operation, are not interrupted by human activities.
Construction of a new residential area about 60 km away also began on Friday to relocate 12 households. By 2013, when the telescope is to be in operation, all 61 farmers will move to their new houses in Kedu town, with farmland allocated by the government.
"The project is beyond my imagination. I'm glad to see that an ordinary old guy like me could contribute to the country's science program," said Yang Chaoli, 68.
On June 2009 China built the world's finest optical telescope . scan 10 million celestial spectra in the coming five-to-six years, one of the world's most ambitious astronomical endeavors to record key data betraying how the universe was formed.
The Chinese government, which awarded the 235 million-yuan (34 million U.S. dollars) contract to a consortium of elite astronomers and engineers, officially unveiled Thursday the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), the biggest telescope of its kind in the world.
The research team, led by Cui Xiangqun, a world-renowned active optics expert who heads the Nanjing Institute of Astronomical Optics and Technology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), made a breakthrough in synchronized movements of 24 hexagonal mirrors of a Schmidt reflecting corrector, which is used to track celestial bodies for scientific analyses.
Cui and her team even made each mirror piece, 1.1 meters in diametrical length, capable of deformation for more precise targeting and error correction in observations. Light from celestial bodies are reflected to a bigger spherical mirror, made up of 37 same-sized hexagonal mirrors in a similar way.
With the 3.6-meter-aperture reflector and the 4.9-meter-aperture spherical mirror, together with a focal plane mounted with 4,000 optical fibers, all cutting-edge technologies, scientists, could ascertain spectra of 2.5 million fixed stars, 2.5 million galaxies, 1.5 million brighter cluster galaxies and one million quasi-stellar objects, mostly in the north celestial sphere.
All the 10 million spectra are expected to be completed within five-to-six years, Cui said, adding that the data would be subsequently accessible to global scientists.
Spectra are key for astronomers to read celestial bodies' chemical composition, density, atmosphere and magnetism. So far, the science community have found the existence of billions of celestial bodies, but have only managed to collect spectra of about one in every 10,000 of them.
The ambitious goal of collecting so much data encouraged Cui and her team to overcome the obstacles making a super large telescope that has both a big aperture and wide field of view.
Inspired by her mentor Su Dingqiang, a leading Chinese astronomer who is also a prestigious CAS member, the 58-year-old Cui combined a 15-story-high scope, missile silo-like observatory tower on top of a 960-meter hill 170 kilometers northeast of Beijing.
During observation nights, the upper parts of the lower dome are removed and starlight is reflected from the mirror up through the 40-meter tube to the primary mirror.
The light of space is fed into the front ends of optical fibers positioned on a focal plane, before real-time data are recorded into spectrographs fixed in a room underneath.
Dr. R. N. Wilson wrote in an e-mail to Cui, his former colleague at the European Southern Observatory, that LAMOST "embodies every aspect of the most advanced and modern telescope technology."
Before LAMOST, the American Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) had been the most powerful spectra-collecting optical telescope. Installed in a New Mexican astronomical station, SDSS has an aperture of 2.5 meters.
In recent months, Cui's huge telescope managed to capture more than 3,600 spectra in each of the four trials on clear Spring nights.
"We're quite comfortable with the scans," Cui said. "Most of the time, we shot the targets exactly, if not hitting the bull's eyes."
University of Chicago Prof. Donald York, founding director of SDSS, said in an e-mail interview with Xinhua that the data for well-positioned fibers of LAMOST looked "very good."
York, however, said that precise calibrated data in wavelength and absolute flux of the celestial bodies cannot be done until the telescope's fiber positioning becomes "perfect" after debugging.
California Institute of Technology astronomer Richard Ellis said, "A large telescope is one of the best examples of what a civilization does well, and I think here we look at the LAMOST now and we see what China has done."
Cui said Chinese scientists might consider building a similar big telescope on Antarctica, to gain wider and clearer cosmic view.