After three years of tests, China is opening up its gigantic 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope to astronomers from all over the world, Nature reports — the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world.
The telescope will be scanning twice as much sky as the next-largest single dish telescope, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, according to Nature. It’ll be able to detect even the faintest of radio waves emanating from celestial objects like pulsars and entire galaxies — and could even be used to discover distant worlds that might harbor alien life.
The telescope’s extremely remote location in Southwest China made its construction challenging. It took engineers five years to construct the 500-meter dish, which is comprised of about 4,400 aluminum panels.
The telescope could accelerate the discoveries of cosmic phenomena significantly. For instance, it spotted more than 100 pulsars during testing alone. Up until 2017, scientists knew of only 2,000 pulsars in total, according to NASA.
The telescope has also detected hundreds of fast radio bursts from a single known source, many of which were too faint to pick up by other telescopes, according to Nature. It could even spot distant exoplanets by their radio emissions alone — something that has yet to be successfully done.
The remaining big challenge will be to store the incredibly vast amounts of data the telescope will be collecting over the coming years.
READ MORE: Gigantic Chinese telescope opens to astronomers worldwide [Nature]