Technology developed by CSIRO will sit at the heart of one of the world’s biggest ever science projects, following an agreement with China’s leading astronomical research organisation.

The National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC) has teamed up with CSIRO engineers in the development of the world’s largest single dish telescope – the Five hundred metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST).

With a diameter of half a kilometre wide, FAST will dwarf the current largest single-dish telescope, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. It will also be one of the most sensitive, able to receive weaker and more distant radio signals, helping to explore the nature, origins and evolution of the universe.

The telescope’s 19-beam receiver, a key component, is being designed and built in Australia by CSIRO engineers.

The FAST complex in China - at its preliminary building stage
The FAST complex in China – at its preliminary building stage


CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the project was a great example of Australia’s innovative technology being delivered on the world stage.

“Global collaboration is an integral part of CSIRO’s Strategy 2020, as it maps out our desire to deliver science, technology and innovation to new customers and markets, while also delivering benefit back to Australia,” Dr Marshall said.

“This is a really exciting project and builds on 40 years of CSIRO collaboration with Chinese industry and research organisations.”

Most radio telescopes use receivers that can only see one piece of sky at a time, but CSIRO has designed receivers with many separate, simultaneous beams, making it practical for FAST to search a large portion of the sky for faint and hidden galaxies.

“The powerful receiver we’ve created for FAST is the result of our long history developing cutting-edge astronomy technology to receive and amplify radio waves from space,” Acting Director CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, Dr Douglas Bock said.

“Extending our technology and collaboration to China and working on what will become the world’s largest radio telescope really cements our position as a global R&D leader in this space.”

Professor Rendong Nan from NAOC said the state-of-the-art instrument would help astronomers to expand their understanding of the universe.

“FAST will make it possible for us to look for a range of extremely interesting and exotic objects, like detecting thousands of new pulsars in our galaxy, and possibly the first radio pulsar in other galaxies,” he said.

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