Tianyan radio telescope begins testing
China have started to test the recently completed Tianyan radio telescope in hopes it can come into service ahead of schedule. Located in the Dawodang depression, this marvel of construction takes advantage of the natural basin in Pingtang County, Guizhou Province, southwest China. The landscape allowed scientists to build a 500 m (1,600 ft) dish, which sits neatly between the bowl-shaped mountain range.
It is the world's largest filled-aperture radio telescope, and the second-largest single-dish aperture after the sparsely-filled RATAN-600 in Russia. The project was original announced back in 1994, approved in 2007, with construction at the site commencing early 2011.
Due to its size, the dish had to utilise a different form of movement. Most radio telescopes can pivot and turn to move with the earth’s rotation, allowing scientists the best opportunities to conduct experiments and capture data. Instead, the fixed nature of the dished required a suspended receiver on a computer-controlled winch system which can focus the angle of the dish.
To limit interference with the dish, a 65-person village was relocated from the valley, and an additional 9,110 people living within a 5km radius of the telescope were relocated to create a radio-quiet area. Locals had contested the move, but the site offered such good conditions the residents were suitably compensated.
The testing program for the dish is quite intensive, with engineers stating it will take three years to calibrate the various instruments. However, the bigger issue the installation faces is a shortage of astronomers available. If more cannot be trained up to standard over the next couple of years, the telescope will not operate at full capacity for a long time.