China to showcase FAST project at Expo 2020 Dubai

One of the major exhibitions at the China Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai (October 1, 2021 – March 31, 2022) will be the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) project.

Located in southwest China’s Guizhou Province FAST is the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world.

Construction of the mega science project began in March 2011.

The 500-metre-diametre telescope is operated by National Astronomical Observatories (NAO), under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

FAST became fully operational in January 2020, after successfully passing various technical and performance assessments.

Foreign collaboration

It is expected that foreign scientists will be permitted to use FAST from this year onwards.

Possessing the highest sensitivity to detect cosmic phenomena FAST is 2.5 times more sensitive than Puerto Rico’s 305-metre-diameter Arecibo telescope, which was the world’s second biggest single-dish radio telescope, before its complete collapse in late 2020.

From using the ultra-advanced FAST, Chinese researchers have been able to become a key force in studying fast radio bursts, which are extremely short but powerful flashes in the sky.

Han Jinlin, a chief researcher at the NAO, said: “Fast radio bursts are one of the frontiers in astronomy because they are full of interesting questions to be answered.”

In particular, NAO researchers have used FAST to observe a repetitive fast radio burst called FRB180301 and found various “polarisation angle swings”, which gives an insight into the origin of fast radio bursts.

Artist's rendition of the China Pavilion at the six-month-long Expo 2020 Dubai. Credit: China Pavilion
Artist’s rendition of the China Pavilion at the six-month-long Expo 2020 Dubai. Credit: China Pavilion


FAST has immense potential to detect fast radio bursts and gravitational waves, providing data support for research into the physical process of the Big Bang.

FAST differs from the collapsed Arecibo telescope by virtue of having an active surface with more than 4,450 adjustable panels to realise pointing and tracking as the world’s largest steerable antenna under 3 GHz.

FAST also possesses a light-weight cabin driven by six cables and servo-motors under closed-loop control up to a precision range of five decades.

The Chinese telescope site is also located in a deep Karst depression situated in mountains, which helps shield the gigantic telescope from radio frequency interference (RFI).

To date FAST has identified more than 240 pulsars – super dense stars that emit electromagnetic beams at precise intervals.

Exhibitions at the China Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will mainly showcase achievements made by China in various fields, including scientific and technological innovations.

Apart from exhibiting the FAST project, the China Pavilion will also showcase the country’s domestically developed BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS).

The US$10 billion BDS network comprises of 35 satellites and provides global navigation coverage.

The final BDS satellite was successfully put into orbit on June 23, 2020, allowing China to no longer having to rely on the US government-owned Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia’s GLONASS and the European Galileo systems.

The launch of the final BDS satellite was delayed after technical problems were found with the rocket in pre-launch tests.