TECH

Stephen Hawking And NASA's Kepler Face Competition For Alien Discovery As China Builds World's Biggest Telescope

24/07/2015 11:54 BST | Updated 24/07/2015 12:59 BST

China has announced that it is building the world's largest telescope with a dish that equals the size of 30 football pitches.

According to state media, Xinhua News agency, technicians began attaching panels to the telescope's reflector on Thursday.

The project began in 2011 but China's decision to release another update yesterday, close on the heels of Kepler Telescope's Earth 2.0 discovery, also made public yesterday, suggests that it would like to be a contender in the race to find alien life.

kepler 452b

On Monday, this race was given a fresh start as The Royal Society hosted a launch -- spear headed by Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and the UK's Stephen Hawking -- of one of the most expensive alien-hunting initiatives.

stephen hawking

China's latest alien-finding offering, called FAST, will be larger than Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, currently the world's biggest single-aperture telescope boasting a 305-metre diameter.

In comparison, FAST's dish will have a 500-metre diameter, made up of 4,450 panels.

According to Xinhuanet.com, Wu Xiangping, director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society said the project will allow the state to stop relying on "secondary data" collected by others a fact he says, has failed to give the nation a breakthrough in its search for alien life.

"Having a more sensitive telescope, we can receive weaker and more distant radio messages," he said.

"It will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy and explore the origins of the universe."

FAST is being built in an area that has "radio silence" with no towns or cities within five kilometres of it, making it an ideal spot to listen for signals from space.

"There are three hills about 500 meters away from one another, creating a valley that is perfect to support the telescope," Sun Caihong, chief engineer of FAST's construction told Xinhua News.

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