Construction is currently underway on what will be the world’s largest radio telescope, being built in Southwest China’s Guizhou Province. As it’s name implies, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, will be 500 meters (1,640 feet) across, surpassing the 305-meter (1,000 foot) Arecibo array in Puerto Rico in size. Unfortunately, 9,110 nearby residents will need to be relocated by Guizhou’s provincial government before the array goes online next year.
The relocation, however, isn’t due to the need for more space for the antenna itself, but rather to create a 5 kilometer zone around the facility "to create a sound electromagnetic wave environment", that is to eliminate stray radio signals that might interfere with the telescope’s operation, according to the secretary-general of the CPPCC Guizhou Provincial Committee, Li Yuecheng. Each resident will receive 12,000 yuan ($1,838 US) for the relocation, and will be relocated to one of four nearby pre-built settlements.
The FAST array, made up of 4,450 individually-positionable panels, is expected to be the world’s most sensitive radio telescope, enabling it to hear fainter signals than existing telescopes. This will allow it to listen deeper into the far reaches of the universe, and will improve it’s chances of picking up on potential signals from alien civilizations.
"Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages. It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe," according to the director-general of Chinese Astronomical Society, Wu Xiangping.